YOLA, Nigeria — It may take years to find all the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the Nigeria-based Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, the country’s defense minister warned Tuesday.
Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a secondary school in the northeastern town of Chibok in April 2014. Some escaped and 21 were released last year after negotiations with Boko Haram, but 195 remain missing.
Nigeria’s military is searching Boko Haram’s hideouts in the Sambisa Forest, a vast area covering parts of three states in the northeast, Gen. Manir Dan Ali told Voice of America’s Hausa language service.
He said even the United States needed a long time to find Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“It took the U.S. up to seven, eight, up to 10 years before they could get to bin Laden,” he said. “We are continuing our campaigning in the Sambisa Forest in all its nooks and corners.”
Ali spoke after Nigerians last week marked the third anniversary of the schoolgirls’ abduction.
In 2014, Boko Haram had seized control of much of northeastern Nigeria but it has been driven back by a military campaign.
Failure to find the girls would translate into a victory for Boko Haram, said Sheikh Nuru Khalid, a member of a group that tries to encourage peace between Nigerian Muslims and Christians.
“We can never allow the terrorists to win the war. If they got (away) free with those girls, then they have relatively won the war,” he said.
The government needs to address the psychological trauma suffered by victims of Boko Haram, human rights lawyer Abdu Bulama Bukar told VOA.
“Married women have been made single again. Kids have been orphaned. Homeowners are without shelter,” he said. “Nigerians have been turned into refugees in their own homeland.”
Troops on clearance operations on Monday at Jarawa village in Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno, rescued 1,623 captives held by remnants of Boko Haram terrorists after they neutralised 21 terrorists in a battle, an official said.
According to a statement issued by the army spokesperson, Sani Usman, the troops also recovered 3 AK-47 Rifles with registration numbers 565222414, 563729686 and UF 3646, a 36 hand grenade, 12 cutlasses and four motorcycles.
“The rescued persons have been escorted to Rann Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp, while all the children were vaccinated,” Mr. Usman, a brigadier general said.
He said the troops of 3 Battalion, 22 Brigade also cleared terrorists from Deima, Artano, Saduguma, Duve, Bardo, Kala, Bok, Msherde and Ahirde settlements, based on tip off.
“One significant aspect of this operation is that the unit noted for its experience in battle, resilience and bravery did not record any casualty,” the army spokesman said.
Boko Haram To Be Defeated By December – General Mansur Dan Ali Author: Sarah Adoyo
A ministerial nominee, General Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali (rtd.), has said the Boko Haram sect will be defeated by the December deadline given to the military by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking during the ministerial screening at the Senate chamber in Abuja today, October 27, General Mansur Dan Ali made this statement. He fielded all the questions from senators.
“Every leader must have three qualities to be a military leader. They are Intergrity, Honesty and Transparency. Nigeria soldiers are among the best soldiers in the world if well taken care of. Deadline in the military like the December dead line on tackling insurgency is progressive,” Dan Ali said.
The nominee, who declared his readiness to serve the country in any capacity, said that “leadership is all about service and you must be honest to deal with the people.”
Chibok Girls, 3 Years Later: Anguished Parents Still Wait
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — For three grueling years Pogu and Yana Galang have waited, desperate for their daughters to return home.
The three girls were among nearly 300 female students kidnapped on April 15, 2014, when members of Boko Haram stormed their boarding school in the village of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria during the week of final exams.
The Galangs have parsed numerous rumors and government statements about the captive girls’ well-being. They spotted one daughter, Saratu Ayuba, in images of the hostages that have trickled out from the militants’ hide-outs.
When one of the girls from Chibok was found roaming in the forest last year, and a few weeks later, in October, when a group of 21 girls was released, the Galangs listened intently for word of their own daughters’ fate. The girls freed in October told the anxious parents that when they had left their camp the Galangs’ three daughters were healthy.
That was the last news they have had. They try to console themselves with the fact that they have seen no photographs indicating their daughters are dead.
“The government keeps promising us that our daughters would be rescued,” Yana Galang said. “It’s taking longer than we expected, so the pain persists.”
On Thursday, Nigerian government officials said they were negotiating the release of more of the nearly 200 girls who remain captive. But the government is known for exaggerating its successes against Boko Haram. Officials made the same statement months ago, so the new one generated little optimism among family members.
The kidnappings of the girls from Chibok created a firestorm on social media, a single act in a rural village that trained the world’s focus on a militant group that was already known for taking and killing young girls and boys as it rampaged through northeastern Nigeria. Social media and the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag rallied even celebrities to call for the girls’ release.
It did nothing to change Boko Haram’s murderous ways. Since that day three years ago, the group has burned villages, killed residents and taken the fight to three other nearby nations, forcing nearly three million people in the region from their homes. The marauding continues, but the group has faced setbacks as the Nigerian military makes major progress rooting fighters from their forest hide-outs.
In the process, soldiers searching for Boko Haram militants have killed unarmed civilians in massacres described by survivors. The military has swept up innocent adults, children and babies, detaining them for weeks or months in screening centers. This week, 371 women, children and older people were released from an army barracks in Maiduguri after being suspected of ties to Boko Haram, according to Unicef. The group said 1,500 children were held by the military last year.
In the years after the Chibok girls’ kidnappings, Boko Haram’s tactics have grown even more horrific. Kidnapped children have been forced into fighting for the group, taking up weapons and abducting other children. The group regularly straps bombs to young women and sends them into crowds, and has forced children as young as 7 and a pregnant woman carrying a baby on her back to don suicide vests and carry out attacks.
.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images
Since 2014, 117 children have been used by Boko Haram to bomb public places across Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, according to a Unicef report issued Wednesday. The report said 27 children had been used in suicide attacks in the first three months of 2017 compared with nine during the same period last year.
“As a consequence, girls, boys and even infants have been viewed with increasing fear at markets and checkpoints, where they are thought to carry explosives,” said a Unicef news release about the report.
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