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Parents search for abducted girls, say 234 missing

22 April 2014, 06:39

Maiduguri - Parents of girls abducted by militants were searching for their daughters in a remote forest, they told the state governor on Monday, adding that 234 were still missing, a much higher figure than authorities said had been kidnapped.

Official figures put the number of abducted girls at 129 and by Saturday afternoon Borno state governor Kassim Shettima said 77 were still unaccounted for, while the other 52 had returned.

Monday's mass abduction of teenage schoolgirls by Boko Haram from Chibok school, which the governor visited on Monday, shocked the country.

It also underlined how powerless the military has become at protecting civilians in the areas plagued by the insurgency, despite a state of emergency nearly a year old that was meant to destroy it.

Parent Shettima Haruna said several parents had taken motorcycles into the Sambisa forest, a known Boko Haram hideout near the school where it is believed the girls were taken.

"We met some men in the Sambisa bush; they told us the Boko Haram camp is still inside and far. They said we may not come out alive ... and we then returned beaten by rains," he said.

"We came back to count all our children and we discovered 234 girls are still missing," he added, standing next to the school, large parts of which were reduced to ash by the attack.

The governor and his entourage did not comment on the discrepancy in the figures, which it was not possible to independently check.

Folly Teika, 53, whose two girls Aisha and Hima were among those abducted, said after days of searching she came across people in a village called Bale.

"They said they saw a lot of girls that same Tuesday morning fetching water from a stream and leaving ... They told us they were certain that girls are still close by, but they advised strongly not to go into that direction because we weren't armed," she told Reuters by telephone.

"All we want from the government is to help us bring our children back," said father Pogu Yaga, 50, bursting into tears.

The kidnapping occurred the same day a bomb blast, which Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau has since claimed responsibility for, killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja.

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- Reuters


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