Nigeria defence chief: We know where kidnapped girls are but rescue is too risky
The Nigerian military says it knows where the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram are being held – but won't risk a rescue mission.
The country's chief of defence revealed the news as he spoke with thousands of demonstrators who marched on the defence headquarters in the capital Abuja yesterday.
Air Marshal Alex Barde said: “The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are.” But he would not reveal the location.
He told the crowd: “We can't go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.”
Air Marshal Barde insisted the military was doing everything possible to bring the more than 270 girls back home safely.
He added: “Nobody should come and say the Nigerian military does not know what it is doing. We know what we are doing.”
It is believed the girls, who were abducted from their school at Chibok in April, are being held by Boko Haram in a forest area in Borno state.
The military's announcement is particularly poignant as today is Children's Day in Nigeria.
The news was welcomed by Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. He said it was “the first ray of optimism for anxious families, many of whom were fearing they would never see their children alive again. Until now, the only news that parents had was a photograph taken weeks ago within a few hours of their abduction.”
In a blog for the Huffington Post, Mr Brown added: “Today, on Nigerian Children’s Day, the girls will still be held in captivity – and their horror continues unabated.
“We still do not know whether they are being trafficked into slavery or have been abused as has happened to past hostages.
“And while the Nigerian government has sent more troops to Borno state to back up the 15,000 already on the search, and as satellite and aircraft surveillance has been stepped up, it will take a delicate operation to secure every child’s safe homecoming.”
American planes have been searching for the girls and the UK, France, Israel and other countries have sent experts in surveillance and hostage negotiation to Nigeria.
A Safe Schools Initiative has been launched by the Nigerian government and international aid agencies with the aim of making schools more secure for Nigerian children and to help end a situation where 10.5million Nigerian girls and boys do not go to school.
Mr Brown has been asked by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to play a lead role in the initiative.
Find out how you can donate to the Safe Schools Fund…
And how you can take action on Day of the African Child in support of safer schools.