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Relatives of Nigerian Kidnapped Schoolgirls Shocked by Rumors of Mass Marriages

Relatives of kidnapped schoolgirls in Chibok. Credit: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Relatives of kidnapped schoolgirls in Chibok. Credit: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

For two weeks, retired teacher Samson Dawah prayed for news of his niece Saratu, who was among more than 230 schoolgirls snatched by Boko Haram militants in the northeastern Nigerian village of Chibok. Then on Monday the agonizing silence was broken.

When Dawah called together his extended family members to give an update, he asked that the most elderly not attend, fearing they would not be able to cope with what he had to say. “We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls. They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants,” Dawah told his relatives.

Saratu’s father fainted; he has since been in hospital. The women of the family have barely eaten. “My wife keeps asking me, ‘why isn’t the government deploying every means to find our children?’” Dawah said. The marriage reports have not been confirmed officially, and rely on eyewitnesses.

The 14 April abduction of the girls – students aged between 16 and 18, who were sitting a physics paper at their school, one of a handful in troubled Borno state that had opened specially for final exams – shocked a nation inured to violence during a five year-insurgency.

Desperate parents launched their own rescue attempts in the 60,000 sq km Sambisa forest where the girls were being held. Security sources told The Guardian that at least three rescue attempts had been scuppered.

This week, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the United Nations’ special adviser on girls’ education, will visit Nigeria to launch a campaign to raise funds and awareness of the schoolgirls’ plight. “We cannot stop terrorism overnight but we can make sure that its perpetrators are aware that murdering and abducting schoolchildren is a heinous crime that the international authorities are determined to punish,” he said.

Reports of the mass marriage came from a group that meets at dawn each day not far from the charred remains of the school. The ragtag gathering of fathers, uncles, cousins and nephews pool money for fuel before venturing unarmed into the thick forest, or into border towns that the militants have terrorized for months.

On Sunday, the searchers were told that the students had been divided into at least three groups, according to farmers and villagers who had seen truckloads of girls moving around the area. One farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents had paid leaders dowries and fired celebratory gunshots for several minutes after conducting mass wedding ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s unbearable. Our wives have grown bitter and cry all day. The abduction of our children and the news of them being married off is like hearing of the return of the slave trade,” said Yakubu Ubalala, whose 17- and 18-year-old daughters Kulu and Maimuna are among the disappeared.

The parents are planning a mass rally on Saturday to lobby the government for official updates, rather than having to rely on reports from local people.

Nigeria’s armed forces face an uphill battle against the insurgents, who operate in small, mobile units and are drawn from communities that spill across the country’s porous desert borders. Near daily aerial bombardments have been halted as ground troops have poured into the forest in search of the girls.

“We are trying, but our efforts are being countered in a way that it is very clear they are being tipped off about our movements. Any time we make a plan to rescue [the girls] we have been ambushed,” said an artillery soldier among a rescue team announced by presidential decree over the weekend. In one clash, he said, 15 soldiers were killed by the insurgents.

“We know where these girls are being held in the forest, but every day we go in and come out disappointed. Definitely somebody high up in the chain of command is leaking up information to these people,” said the soldier, whom The Guardian was able to reach three times during shift breaks.

Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, said in 2012 that Boko Haram had secret backers among government and security officials.

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Comment by rashid rourk on May 2, 2014 at 2:57pm

Nigeria: Abducted Schoolgirls - Army Set to Invade Sambisa Forest

Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN
Soldiers deployed against rebels (file photo).

The Nigerian Army has concluded plans to storm Sambisa Forest with about four battalions this weekend to secure the abducted 234 students of the Government Girls' Secondary School (GGSS), Chibok, Borno State.

A military source who disclosed the development last night added that a little more than a Brigade of the Nigerian Army had been moved to the forest and are taking positions in and around all the access routes into and outside the Sambisa forest where the girls have been confirmed to be holed up with their captors.

The source said, "Let me tell you that fighter jets of the Nigerian Air Force as well as police surveillance helicopters have been mobilised and are waiting for the command to begin the joint security operations for rescue efforts of the abducted schoolgirls.

"Due to the dangerous nature of the operation which will result in soldiers and security agencies encountering booby traps, land mines, ambush and other unknown traps from the side of the terrorists, Air Force fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships and Police surveillance helicopters would carry out round the clock missions to ensure the success of the operation."

Speaking further, the top officer said that since the forest shares borders with towns in Adamawa, Yobe, Borno and Cameroon, the different battalions would each launch their offensive from these locations.

Comment by rashid rourk on May 2, 2014 at 2:48pm

I don't understand it either Bro! There may have been a protest in NY and DC today.

Comment by Ruff de Gehto Travler on May 2, 2014 at 2:20pm
Yo how the hell you can kidnap 300 girls huh what !!!
Comment by rashid rourk on May 2, 2014 at 10:34am

Just heard it may be up to 300 girls missing.

Comment by rashid rourk on May 1, 2014 at 4:48pm

I hope all the celebrities that are tweeting and running to buy the Clippers, will shift their focus to the Motherland.

Comment by rashid rourk on May 1, 2014 at 4:42pm

Your anger is vibrating through your words brother. I know we lost most of our radio stations, I would have thought the liberal stations would cover it. Those are not Muslims, they mix religion , politics, and degenerate ideas and mask it as Islam. If those were really Muslims, they would know that their actions are the complete opposite of the teachings of Allah.

Comment by Ruff de Gehto Travler on May 1, 2014 at 4:25pm
King when this story first hit last week I was so upset I am like why does this keep happening in Africa Genocides,Bombings ,Civil Wars ,Abductions and every time you look it's some crazy ass self rightious int he name of Allah bullshit causing hurt and pain on it's own people like the White man have them shook!!!! How in the hell are you able to Kiddnap 234 plus little girls march them for two weeks the Government of Nigeria does nothing and the world just sits back and don't do s*** and the biggiest story on the US News is some 80 yr old Clipper owner that could care less what the f*** we think!!!! King the world is in trouble!!!
Comment by rashid rourk on May 1, 2014 at 4:11pm

 One of The things that is sad thing is a lot of people still haven't heard of this story. I thought this story was posted already.

Comment by Ruff de Gehto Travler on May 1, 2014 at 3:00pm
Man I have been mad at this for weeks now!!!

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