UK & World News

  • 9 May 2014, 19:19

Nigerian Forces 'Warned About Girls' Kidnap'

Nigerian security forces failed to respond to warnings about Boko Haram's planned abduction of 276 girls, it has been claimed.

Amnesty International said it had verified reports from several credible sources who claimed the military was aware of the impending attack close to four hours before it took place.

The human rights group said a combination of a lack of resources and a reported fear among local forces of engaging with often better-equipped armed groups meant that the military did not act.

Boko Haram militants initially seized more than 300 girls from the boarding school in Chibok in the northern Borno state on April 14. An estimated 53 students managed to escape, but 276 are still missing.

Netsanet Belay, Amnesty's Africa director, speaking from Abuja, said: "The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram's impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime.

"It amounts to a gross dereliction of Nigeria's duty to protect civilians, who remain sitting ducks for such attacks. The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls' safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again."

Nigerian authorities have rejected the charity's findings as "unfounded".

Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade told news agency AFP: "The report is just a collation of rumours."

The report will further add to anger directed at the Nigerian government over claims it has been too slow to respond to the abduction.

The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, has threatened to sell the girls "on the market" and some of the group have already reportedly been trafficked to neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.

However, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said he believes the girls are still in Nigeria.

A British team of experts sent to "advise and support" the rescue operation touched down in Nigeria's Abuja earlier on Friday.

In a statement the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said Britain's aim was not only to help find the girls but to eradicate Boko Haram, whose five-year insurgency has left at least 1,500 people dead in 2014 alone.

It said: "The team will be considering not just the recent incidents but also the longer-term counter-terrorism solutions to prevent such attacks in the future and defeat Boko Haram."

Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed their arrival in an interview with Sky News.

He described the abduction as: "A ghastly situation, an act of pure evil."

The UK team are joining military and intelligence experts from the United States, who US Secretary of State John Kerry said would do everything they could "to return these girls to their families and their communities".

The search for the missing schoolgirls is focused around the huge Sambisa Forest - the "hideout" of Boko Haram, whose name is said to figuratively mean "Western education is forbidden".

The group is suspected of carrying out numerous other attacks, including the abduction of a further 11 girls, aged 12 to 15, who were seized from the northeastern village of Warabe earlier this week.

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