News / Africa

Nigeria Protest Marks One Month Since Kidnapping

People walk in the rain during a protest for the release of secondary school girls abducted in the remote village of Chibok, along a road in Lagos, May 14, 2014.
People walk in the rain during a protest for the release of secondary school girls abducted in the remote village of Chibok, along a road in Lagos, May 14, 2014.
VOA News
Protesters in Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city, braved heavy rain Wednesday to march in recognition of the one-month anniversary of the mass kidnapping in the country's north.

Protesters chanted and called on security forces to intensify their search for the girls, who were kidnapped from their school in the northeastern part of the county by Boko Haram militants on April 14.

Women and human rights activists comprised a large segment of the protesters who also expressed concerns about security.

"It's about protecting the whole country. These girls are a symbol of that," gender activist Habiba Balogun explained, adding that "we are putting our foot down and saying enough is enough."

Open to negotiations

Special Duties Minister Taminu Turaki restated the Nigerian government's position that it was open to negotiations on ending Boko Haram's increasingly bloody five-year insurgency.

Turaki, who last year headed a committee tasked with pursuing an amnesty pact with some of the group's fighters, told French news agency AFP: "Nigeria has always been willing to dialogue with the insurgents.

"We are willing to carry that dialogue on any issue, including the girls kidnapped in Chibok, because certainly we are not going to say that [the abduction] is not an issue,” he said.

Nigeria's interior minister had previously dismissed a suggestion from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a video released on Monday that the girls could be swapped for imprisoned militants. But the military later said it would "explore all options" to end the crisis.

Residents form vigilante group

Some residents in Kalabalge, a northeastern Nigerian village in Borno state, said they killed and arrested scores of suspected Boko Haram militants they believed had planned to launch an attack.

The residents said they had formed a vigilante group to foil attacks by Boko Haram amid accusations the Nigerian military is not doing enough to stem attacks.

The killings happened Tuesday.  A security official confirmed the incident, saying the villagers ambushed two trucks in which several gunmen traveled.

Nigerian Christian's harrowing story

Deborah Peters, 15, who used to live in Chibok, Nigeria, on Tuesday recounted the day Boko Haram allegedly killed her father, a Christian pastor, and brother.
 
Chibok, in Borno state, is the same village where Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 girls from a boarding school on April 14.
 
Peters claims three men from the militant group came to her home in December 2011 and killed her father for being a pastor. She said the gunmen then shot her brother because he could become a pastor one day, too.

She now lives in the U.S. and goes to school in Virginia.

 
In this photo taken from video by Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist network, Monday May 12, 2014 shows the alleged missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. The new video purports to show dozens of abducted schoolgirls, covered in jihab
Girls in video identified

Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima confirmed that all of the girls shown in the latest video released by the militant Islamist group had been identified as students at the school attacked in Chibok last month.

The  video reportedly shows about 130 of the missing girls, in an undisclosed rural location, wearing Muslim dress and praying. Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau said they had all converted to Islam.

A special viewing of the footage was organized for the missing girls' parents.

"All the girls in that video were identified to be students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok," Shettima said in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Tsambido Hosea, the leader of the Chibok community in Abuja, said the video had stirred up conflicting emotions back home.

"I called Chibok and spoke with some of them [the parents]," he said at a protest march. "Some are saying they are happy because they have seen their daughters. Some have their grief increased. So, there is a mixed reaction."

State of emergency extension

President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday requested a six-month extension to the state of emergency declared in Borno and two neighboring states a year ago because of the "daunting" security situation.

Jonathan's request for a six-month extension of the state of emergency in the northeast requires the approval of both chambers of Nigeria's parliament.

The request comes almost a year to the day after the state of emergency was first imposed and nearly six months after an initial extension.

But with more than 1,500 people killed so far this year and no let-up in the violence, the wisdom of an extension was immediately called into question.

The government in northern Yobe state swiftly rejected any extension of the state of emergency, slamming it as an "apparent failure" over the past year.

Shehu Sani, an expert on Boko Haram and violence in northern Nigeria, said it was a "futile" exercise and the government should instead seek a negotiated settlement with Boko Haram.

France denounces 'mass rape' of girls
 
A woman holds her baby and a poster reading "Bring Back our Girls" during a rally to support the release of the kidnapped Nigerian girls at the Trocadero, in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris on May 13, 2014.A woman holds her baby and a poster reading "Bring Back our Girls" during a rally to support the release of the kidnapped Nigerian girls at the Trocadero, in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris on May 13, 2014.
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A woman holds her baby and a poster reading "Bring Back our Girls" during a rally to support the release of the kidnapped Nigerian girls at the Trocadero, in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris on May 13, 2014.
A woman holds her baby and a poster reading "Bring Back our Girls" during a rally to support the release of the kidnapped Nigerian girls at the Trocadero, in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris on May 13, 2014.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius denounced what he called the "mass rape" of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls.

These girls "have been the kidnapped and then enslaved, and it's a mass rape that must be prosecuted and punished as such," Fabius said during a visit to Washington.

France will host a summit on Saturday focusing on the threat posed by Boko Haram and has invited leaders from at least five African countries, including Nigeria.

Meanwhile the United Nations' top expert on worldwide human trafficking called for the negotiated release of the schoolgirls, amid worries they might be sold off.

"The elements of trafficking are there," said Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the U.N. Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on the issue, in a conference call with U.S.-based foreign journalists.

"We cannot do politics with the lives of these young girls," said Ezeilo, who is from Nigeria.

Foreign assistance

U.S., British, French and Israeli specialists have been sent to Abuja to provide assistance to Nigeria. China has also offered help.

A U.S. defense official said General David Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Africa Command, was also in the capital "discussing U.S. assistance for the search as well as overall cooperation."

Rodriguez's visit came after Washington confirmed the U.S. was flying manned aircraft over Nigeria and sharing commercial satellite imagery to help with the hunt for the kidnapped girls.

Britain said it was sending its Foreign Office minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, to Abuja on Wednesday to discuss what further help is required.

One of Britain's military specialists on the ground, Brigadier Ivan Jones, said there was close co-operation with the Nigerians but warned the search was difficult.

"No one should underestimate the scale and complexity of this incident and environment," he said in a statement.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.

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