The Nigerian military recanted claims on Friday that it had rescued most of the school girls kidnapped by Islamic terrorists after a shocking raid on a school on Monday saw approximately 150 kidnapped. On Wednesday, the military had claimed that all but a handful of the girls were in custody.
Boko Haram made the daring attack on the Government Girls Secondary School in the northeastern state Borno on Monday night. The Islamic militant group with ties to al Qaeda overpowered soldiers stationed at the school and loaded the schoolgirls into trucks before driving off into the bush.
A statement from the country's Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade said the initial report was "not intended to deceive the public." The statement did not indicate how many of the girls are still missing.
"The number of those still missing is not the issue now as the life of every Nigerian is very precious," it said.
Confusion also remains over exactly how many girls were in fact kidnapped. The Borno state education commissioner said that 30 girls had already been rescued or escaped and that 99 were still missing, according to GGS news. Other reports have said that up to 200 girls are still missing.
Hunters and vigilantes, including some of the girls’ parents, were reportedly assisting in the rescue efforts and combing the surrounding areas. It is assumed that the girls were taken to densely forested areas along the eastern border with Cameroon, reported the BBC.
Boko Haram has perpetrated a reign of terror in northeastern Nigeria that has ramped up this year in a series of large attacks, with over 1500 killed already. Also on Monday, the group bombed a bus station in the capital of Abuja, killed over 70 people.
School attacks are a hallmark of the group, whose name loosely translates to “Western education is forbidden” or “Western education is a sin.” Founded 12 years ago by Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic cleric, the group seeks to establish an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.
Last year, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states to combat them, but the government has appeared increasingly powerless in attempts to stop them.
“Despite an initial reduction in Boko Haram attacks, the militant group reestablished a base in Borno State, along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, and killed more civilians than in any period since its first attack under the leader Abubakar Shekau in September 2010,”wrote Jacob Zenn, an analyst on African affairs and expert in Boko Haram, in February.
The Nigerian military, no stranger to scandal, has also been accused of frequent human rights abuses in their war against Boko Haram.