MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, (Reuters) – Parents of girls abducted by Islamist militants were searching for their daughters in a remote forest, they told the state governor yesterday, adding that 234 were still missing, a much higher figure than authorities said had been kidnapped.
Official figures put the number of abducted girls at 129 and by Saturday afternoon Borno state governor Kassim Shettima said 77 were still unaccounted for, while the other 52 had returned.
Yesterday’s mass abduction of teenage schoolgirls by Boko Haram from Chibok school, which the governor visited on Monday, shocked Nigeria, a nation long used to hearing about brutal attacks on civilians in the northeast.
It also underlined how powerless the military has become at protecting civilians in the areas of Africa’s most populous country plagued by the insurgency, despite a state of emergency nearly a year old that was meant to destroy it.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful”, say they are fighting for a breakaway Islamic state in northern Nigeria, although they have increasingly targeted civilians instead of just security forces over the past year.
Parent Shettima Haruna said several parents had taken motorcycles into the Sambisa forest, a known Boko Haram hideout near the school where it is believed the girls were taken.