Nigeria: hope crushed for resolution to Muslim kidnappings
Nigerian military was aware of coming attack on Chibok, where nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted. It did nothing to stop the incident.
Hopes for a quick resolution in the case of the approximately 300 girls kidnapped by Muslims in Nigeria were squashed on May 13. A government official dismissed a deal proffered by Abubakar Shekau - the leader of the violent Boko Haram sect that abducted the girls from a school in northeastern Nigeria - to release his victims in exchange for his imprisoned confreres. According to Global Information Network, Minister Abba Moro gave thumbs down to any exchange.
Shekau made his offer in a video, obtained by a French news agency, which is believed to be the first to show the missing girls alive. In the video, the abducted schoolgirls were dressed in Muslim hijab - body covering prescribed by Islam for women. They were seen to be sitting quietly or in prayer led by their abductors. The video contends that the girls have converted to Islam. Most of them, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, were Christian. It is customary in many Muslim countries for extremists to demand conversion of female victims, along with rape and forced marriage. Those who resist are often murdered.
Thousands of Boko Haram suspects –including women and children – have been jailed over the years by security forces since fighting intensified between insurgents and Nigerian soldiers back in 2011. Human rights groups call the jail conditions “atrocious.” After a prison break earlier this year by Boko Haram fighters, more than 600 people, most of them unarmed recaptured detainees, were summarily killed by the military, according to “credible sources” cited by Amnesty International.
The Nigerian government has now reportedly made "indirect contact" with the terrorist group. The official response to the kidnapping – delayed for almost 3 weeks – infuriated Nigerians and sympathizers all over the world who responded with the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Rallies continue to be held in Nigeria and in Washington, including a televised appeal by First Lady Michele Obama.
Meanwhile, the watchdog group Amnesty International has gathered testimonies to confirm that Nigerian security forces knew that a convoy of Boko Haram fighters was approaching the town of Chibok four hours before the kidnapping and did nothing to stop them. Nearby military commands in Damboa and Maiduguri were repeatedly contacted with warnings by both security and local officials. A prominent Catholic churchman in Nigeria lamented recently that the government appears "impotent" in its struggle to control the insurrection.
(Abu Bakar Sheikau - Boko Haram leader)
Armed Boko Haram fighters on motorbikes and trucks were seen by locals, some of whom also raised the alarm. In the village of Gagilam, local civilian patrols alerted officials, including the Borno State Governor and senior military commanders based in Maiduguri. One resident of the area said he made several calls to local officials and was promised by the security people that reinforcement was on its way. Two senior officers in Nigeria's military confirmed to Amnesty International that the military was aware of the planned attack even before the calls received from local officials.
Catholic bishops of Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland denounced the conduct of war in Gaza, Iraq, and Syria, while calling on Muslims to eschew persecution of Christians and other minorities.
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