CHIBOK, Nigeria — The Nigerian military has announced that it has located the hundreds of schoolgirls that were kidnapped in April by Islamic militants, but is considering its rescue strategy carefully out of fears that the use of force could place the teens in danger.
As previously reported, the notorious Muslim group Boko Haram had stormed an all-girls secondary school in Chibok, Borno State last month, kidnapping 276 students while they were taking their final exams. Over 50 girls later escaped, but more than 200 have remained missing for weeks.
“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” Abubaker Shekau of the African militant group Boko Haram stated in a video released earlier this month. “There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. … They are his property and I will carry out his instructions.”
“They … started shouting, ‘Allahu Akhbar,’” one of the abducted teens told the Associated Press about the day she and others were taken captive. “And we knew.”
The teen stated that a number of girls escaped by jumping out of one of the vehicles carrying the students.
“We ran and ran, so fast,” she explained. “That is how I saved myself. I had no time to be scared; I was just running.”
Boko Haram, being translated, means “western education is sinful.” Shekau reiterated the group’s opposition to the West during his video statement.
“Western education should end,” he declared. “Girl, you should go and get married.”
International outrage resulted in numerous campaigns calling for the release of the students, including the popular hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, and protests have been held in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on a regular basis.
On Monday, Air Marshal Alex Badeh of the Nigerian military told reporters that the girls had been located, but kept their whereabouts secret.
“The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you,” he said.
Badeh also advised that the military is being careful about its rescue strategy as it feels that the use of force could put the girls’ lives in danger.
“We want our girls back. I can tell you we can do it. Our military can do it,” he told a gathering of demonstrators that had gathered in Abuja. “But where they are held, can we go with force?”
“No!” the crowd answered.
“If we go with force what will happen?” Badeh asked.
“They will die,” the demonstrators called out.
Boko Haram has been in the headlines for the past five years surrounding its responsibility for numerous violent acts throughout Nigeria that have resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths. According to reports, the group seeks to implement Sharia law in the nation, and is especially hostile toward Christians.
As previously reported, 19-year-old Hajja told Reuters in December that she was held by Boko Haram and told to renounce Christianity or perish. Members of Boko Haram threatened to slit her throat if she did not give up her faith in Christ.
“They told me I must become a Muslim, but I refused again and again,” Hajja said. “They were about to slaughter me, and one of them begged me not to resist and just before I had my throat slit, I relented. They put a veil on me and made me read from the Koran.”
Boko Haram made Hajja a domestic slave. She was forced to clean and prepare meals for the terrorist militia, but later escaped from her captors.
“They want to ‘Islamitize’ Nigeria. That is why they are targeting Christians,” stated Habila Adamu, who was shot in the head after he likewise refused to deny Christ, but miraculously survived. “They wanted me to deny Jesus. We are sinners! We are condemned criminals. We are supposed to die! But He took all these burdens! He paid for our debt! He died for us! Why can I not submit to Jesus? That is what I did. I stood for him!”