Soldiers and vigilantes hunt for Nigeria girls

April 22, 2014 - 12:26:50 am

KANO: Nigerian soldiers and vigilantes are hunting “around the clock” for the Islamist fighters holding scores of schoolgirls hostage, an official said yesterday, as locals claimed the number kidnapped was far higher than first reported.

The mass abduction blamed on Boko Haram militants in northeastern Borno state has been described as one of the most shocking attacks in the group’s five-year extremist insurgency. Borno’s government has said 129 students were taken from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok when gunmen stormed the town under the cover of darkness on April 14.

Isa Gusau, a spokesman for Borno’s Governor Kashim Shettima, said that 52 had escaped so far, after seven more girls were found safe yesterday. Two ran to the state capital Maiduguri, while five others found their way home, he said.

“With this development, we now have 77 girls still in the custody of their abductors,” Gusau said. “This is the most trying moment Governor Shettima has faced in the last three years,” he said. “A security (operation) has been put in place to rescue the remaining girls,” he said, saying this included soldiers and members of a civilian force that formed last year to help the military fight Boko Haram. “We are working around the clock to ensure all of them are freed unharmed,” he said.