A top military official in Nigeria says the military knows where more than 200 schoolgirls are being held captive by Islamist militants, but says it would be difficult to use force to rescue them.
Chief of Defense Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh told reporters in Abuja Monday that a military operation could be dangerous for the girls. He said, "We can't kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."
Badeh said, "The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you... We cannot come and tell you military secrets. Just leave us alone, we are working, we will get the girls back."
He spoke as demonstrators marched to the defense ministry headquarters.
The girls were kidnapped in mid-April while taking exams in a secondary school in the remote northern village of Chibok.
Militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram claim responsibility for the kidnappings and say they want to exchange the abducted girls for members of its group who are in prison.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his government are facing sharp criticism both domestically and internationally for their failure to rescue the missing girls.
Several countries, including the Untied States, are providing Nigeria with help to look for the girls.
Boko Haram is blamed for thousands of killings during its five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state. In recent weeks, the group has stepped up the frequency and intensity of its attacks.