Boko Haram schoolgirl kidnap: rescue 'extremely difficult'

Apr 16, 2014

Nigerian troops said to be 'scared' of entering areas in north-east under control by Islamist militants

Quentin Leboucher/AFP/Getty Images

NIGERIAN troops face an "extremely difficult" mission to save around 100 schoolgirls believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

The girls were abducted by gunmen on Monday night from a remote boarding school in Chibok, in Nigeria's north-east state of Borno.

The men reportedly overpowered soldiers deployed to protect the school and ordered the girls, aged between 16 and 18, onto lorries before heading into a dense forest area.

At first it was believed up to 200 girls had been abducted, but some have managed to escape and return to their homes. One of the girls told the BBC that she and a group of fellow students escaped when one of the vehicles broke down.

Boko Haram – which roughly translates as "Western education is a sin" – has repeatedly attacked schools in the north-east during its five-year insurgency, in which thousands have died. Schools in Borno were closed three weeks ago, but the girls were recalled to take their final exams, a local government official said.

Islamic extremists have been abducting girls to use as cooks and sex slaves, reports The Independent.

Nigerian troops are said to be on a "search and rescue mission trailing the terrorists", according to government officials, but BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross has warned of the difficulties they face.

"The terrifying thing is that if [the girls] are now being held by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, it will be extremely difficult for any kind of rescue effort to succeed without harming the girls," he told Radio 4's Today programme this morning.

The militants are able to hide in a very dense forest covering a vast swathe of north-east Nigeria, an area where Ross says the military "have not had a lot of success".

He says that parts of the region appear to be "pretty much" under Boko Haram's control, adding that "it sounds as if the military is scared of going into some of these areas because of the firepower of the militants".

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