Boko Haram abduct another 110 schoolgirls 

Nigeria’s government has acknowledged that 110 girls are missing nearly a week after Boko Haram militants attacked their town. Information minister Lai Mohammed issued a statement about the missing girls on Sunday 25 Feb after holding meetings with family members: “The federal government has confirmed that 110 students of the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, are so far unaccounted for, after insurgents believed to be from a faction of Boko Haram invaded their school on Monday.”

Boko Haram militants drove into the town of Dapchi on Monday 19 Feb in the evening, sending many residents fleeing into the surrounding bush amid a hail of gunfire. Witnesses said the Islamic extremists specifically asked where the girls’ school was located and attacked the girls’ school, sending hundreds of students fleeing. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing young women being taken away at gunpoint. Some of the attackers were camouflaged and a number of students thought they were soldiers.

The fate of the girls is not known, but many Nigerians fear the girls were abducted as wives for the Boko Haram extremists, who in 2014 kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok and forced many of them to marry their captors. Nearly four years later, about 100 of the Chibok girls have not returned to their families and some of the girls said they now wi      

There was confusion over the number of girls missing. State police, Yobe government and others had given different figures ranging from about 50 to more than 100.  Yobe state officials on Wednesday falsely indicated that dozens of the abducted girls had been rescued while others were hiding and would return in the coming days. However, the next day  Yobe government had to issue a statement saying the schoolgirls were mostly still unaccounted for, sparking anger among locals.

Bashir Manzo, whose daughter Fatima is among the missing, said the chances that the children are merely hiding in the bush are slim: “All those that fled into the bush had been brought back to the school on Tuesday, and a roll call was taken after which they had all gone home to meet their parents.”

Frustrated family members compiled a list of missing girls after saying officials had been too slow to respond. A parent representing families of girls who disappeared on Friday said 105 were missing.

President Muhammadu Buhari, the 75-year-old former military ruler elected in 2015 after vowing to crush Boko Haram, said no effort will be spared to locate the missing youngsters. He declared: “The entire country stands as one with the girls’ families, the government and the people of Yobe State. This is a national disaster.We are sorry that this could have happened and share your pain. We pray that our gallant armed forces will locate and safely return your missing family members.”

The Nigerian Air Force stated that the chief of air staff had “directed the immediate deployment of additional air assets and Nigerian Air Force personnel to the northeast with the sole mission of conducting day and night searches for the missing girls.”Air Force spokesman Olatokunbo Adesanya said, “the renewed efforts at locating the girls are being conducted in close liaison with other surface security forces”.

Information Minister Lai Mohammed, who was part of a delegation of ministers who met parents and teachers in Dapchi, also said police and security officials had been deployed to schools in the state.

ACN Malta