More than 200 schoolgirls are still missing after they were abducted last week by suspected Islamist militants in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, according to the school principal.
“The total number of missing students now stands at 230,” Asabe Kwambura, the principal of the state-run Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, said by phone yesterday. Two days ago the authorities in Borno said in a statement they were looking for 77 girls.
Originally, Kwambura put the number of kidnapped at 129, with 14 having escaped. Borno state is setting up a committee to work with parents to figure out how many students are missing, government spokesman Isa Gusau said today by phone from Maiduguri, the state capital.
The Islamist group Boko Haram, which is suspected of seizing the students on April 14, is waging a campaign of violence to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, in Africa’s biggest oil producer. The four-year-old insurgency has claimed as many as 4,000 lives, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
The Nigerian military, which retracted a statement last week saying only eight girls were missing, won’t issue further comments on the kidnappings, Major-General Chris Olukolade, a defense ministry spokesman, said by phone today.
“This is an indication that there was poor coordination,” Freedom Onuoha, a research fellow at the National Defence College in Abuja, said today by phone. “If you don’t have a verified figure, how then can we tell when we’ve recovered them all?”
Borno is the birthplace of Boko Haram, which means “western education is a sin” in the Hausa language. In February, the United Nations condemned the group for killing 29 students at a school in Yobe state.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has blamed Boko Haram for a rush-hour car bomb attack last week on a bus station in a suburb of the capital, Abuja, that killed at least 75 people.