Contrary To Earlier Reports, Nigerian Schoolgirls Still Missing

by Greg Pollowitz

The fate of nearly 100 kidnapped schoolgirls believed by authorities to be in the hands of a militant Islamist sect in northern Nigeria remained uncertain Thursday, as President Goodluck Jonathan moved to rebut criticism that he’d been insensitive to the recent violence that has convulsed the West African nation.

Since armed men burst into a girls’ boarding school in the northern state of Borno on Monday and seized 129 students, 30 have escaped captivity, the state’s education commissioner, Musa Inuwa Kubo, said.

A military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, said in an email on Wednesday, however, that all but eight of the 121 captured girls were safely accounted for. He cited Asabel Kwambura, the school principal, as the source of his information. A day later, Mr. Kwambura denied making the claim.

“The military are not giving the right information,” he said Thursday, adding that he was in regular contact with local officials and the girls’ parents. Some of the parents, he said, were journeying to the northern forests where Boko Haram is known to hide, in an attempt to locate their children and negotiate their release.

Maj. Gen. Olukolade didn’t respond Thursday to requests for comment about the discrepancy.

The Nigerian military’s accounting was the latest in a series of disputed declarations about Boko Haram that have undermined public confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the sect, whose fighters carry out almost daily attacks across the north of the country. . .