Friday 23 March 2018

We may never find missing girls - president

Former French first lady Valerie Trierweiler attends a gathering
Former French first lady Valerie Trierweiler attends a gathering "Bring Back Our Girls" near the Eiffel Tower in Paris yesterday

Colin Freeman

Nigeria's president-elect Muhammadu Buhari has admitted that it may be impossible to find the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok a year ago.

Mr Buhari, who defeated Goodluck Jonathan in last month's presidential elections, said in a statement on Tuesday's anniversary of the girls' kidnapping that he wanted to be "honest" about the chances of reuniting them with their families.

"We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued," he said. "Their whereabouts remain unknown. As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them. But I say to every parent, family member and friend of the children that my government will do everything in its power to bring them home."

The message from Mr Buhari, who won the election partly on a pledge to do more to tackle Boko Haram, was an attempt to strike a different tone from Mr Jonathan, who repeatedly said that the girls would be found.

In the past year, the Nigerian military has also made numerous false claims that it knew where the teenagers were being held and was on the verge of rescuing them. Diplomats believe that there has been no confirmed sightings of the girls in the last six months at all.

The most recent likely sighting was last September in the town of Gwoza, near Nigeria's border with Cameroon, when a US "eye in the sky" drone or satellite camera saw around 20-30 girls being held under armed guard in an abandoned school building.

Mr Buhari also said that he would resume a training agreement with the US to drill army units in counter-insurgency techniques, which was halted late last year after a fall out between Washington and Mr Jonathan's government. Washington had said it could not supply certain weaponry to the Nigerian army because of fears of human rights violations.

Mr Buhari issued his statement as events were taking place in Nigeria and around the world to mark the first anniversary of the abduction. In New York, the BringBackOurGirls campaign, which publicised the girls' plight extensively on social media, said the Empire State Building would be lit in its colours of red and purple, to symbolise an end to violence against women. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News