CHIBOK-Revealing photographs of Boko Haram fighters have been taken by United States manned and unmanned aircraft as American military and intelligence specialists intensified the hunt for Nigeria’s missing schoolgirls.
However, US officials have expressed frustration with the country’s inability to act on these and other fresh intelligence about the Boko Haram extremists who took more than 200 school girls captive and threatened to sell them into slavery, The Los Angeles Times has reported.
“Images from US surveillance drones and satellites over the last week has shown suspected bands of Boko Haram militants setting up temporary camps and moving through isolated villages and along dirt tracks in northeastern Nigeria,” the report quoted US officials as saying.
It said the Obama administration has shared the images with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government in Abuja. “But Nigeria’s security forces are hampered by poor equipment and training and have failed to respond quickly,” said a US official familiar with the growing search operation.
US Defence officials, according to the report, believe the insurgents split the girls into several groups after the April 14 abduction from school in Chibok village. The leader of the militants, Abubakar Shekau, said this week that he would release some of the girls in exchange for imprisoned members of his group.
Bolstered by international help, the Nigerian-led search has now expanded to include an ungoverned area of desert and that crosses the porous borders into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon, US officials say. The girls’ locations are still unknown, however, the report said.
Meanwhile, mounting US frustration with the case spilled into the open on Thursday at a US Senate hearing where US officials complained of lack of decisive actions on what had been harvested so far.
“It is impossible to fathom that we might have actionable intelligence and we would not have the wherewithal — whether by the Nigerians themselves or by other entities helping the Nigerians — to be able to conduct a rescue mission,” said Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“In general, Nigeria has failed to mount an effective campaign against Boko Haram,” Alice Friend, the Pentagon’s principal director for Africa, told committee members. “In the face of a new and more sophisticated threat than it has faced before, its security forces have been slow to adapt with new strategies, new doctrines and new tactics.”
The United States, however, said it will continue to deepen its efforts, Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, said while traveling to Saudi Arabia.
“However, I have seen no intelligence come back that I am aware of that shows that we’ve located those girls,” he said.
For now, the United States is not sharing raw intelligence from its surveillance aircraft with Nigeria’s armed forces because the countries have still not established the intelligence-sharing protocols and safeguards needed for an intelligence-sharing agreement, Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, said.
That said, the intelligence gathered through the surveillance flights is being fed to an interdisciplinary team on the ground, and that team is analysing it and providing advice to the Nigerian government, he said.
Warren added that the manned and unmanned aircraft being used are unarmed.
Ugudu, at a news conference on Saturday, May 17, 2014 said the school received two letters on May 14 which both had the same content.
He said: “It is true that we saw two letters informing us of the intention of the sect to invade our school on Friday or Monday by Boko Haram.
“The letters were dated May 14, 2014, stating that they were coming either of the two days to abduct our boys whom they would marry to the secondary school girls abducted in Chibok.
“In the letter, we were asked to inform the Mount Saint Gabriel Secondary School opposite us to also get prepared as they promised to invade the place too.’’
The school principal said the police department and commissioner of education were notified, and commended them for their prompt response.
The Government College has about 700 students of which about 500 are boarders while Mount Saint Gabriel is purely boarding.
“We immediately alerted the police and the Commissioner for Education. A report has been made to the Governor on the issue,” he added.
Ugudu said: “The two letters, which were written in pidgin English, were sighted inside one of the classrooms and the second one was slipped into the staff room.”
He assured that security checks have been done to ensure the safety of its students. The principal also said that he had informed the principal of Mount Saint Gabriel about the threat from Boko Haram.
Dan Ezeala , the police public relations Officer in the state confirmed the report and assured that the police were at high alert.
The Islamist insurgents on April 14 kidnapped more than 200 female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno state.
A presidential aide confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES at 12:10 p.m. today that the president will no more visit Chibok but would fly directly to France.
“President Goodluck Jonathan will no longer visit Chibok on Friday”, aides have said.
The president had planned to Chibok, the town where over 250 female students of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State were kidnapped on April 14. Many political supporters of the President had taken to the social media commending him for cancelling the proposed trip to Chibok as that would have been an opportunity for the terrorist sect to carry out what they termed “the last fight”.
Now that the operational leadership and visible face of Boko Haram, in the person of the filth called Mr. Abubakar Shekau (aka Darul Tawheed), has finally admitted that they were responsible for the abduction of hundreds of our school girls and that they intend to ‘’sell them in the market like slaves’’, it is pertinent and necessary for us to consider some of the emerging, though uncomfortable, facts.
This will enable us to understand the nature of who and what we are dealing with. Permit me to share the following facts that have been brought to my attention:
1. That the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has told us that 90 per cent of the girls that were abducted from their school at Chibok were Christians.
2. That President Goodluck Jonathan himself alluded to this during his last media chat when he said that ‘’the majority’’ of girls that were abducted were Christians.
3. That the majority of the girls that either ‘’escaped’’ or were released by their abductors were Muslims.
4. That the Governor of Borno State refused to accept the counsel and abide by the directives of WAEC that the exams should not take place in Chibok due to the precarious security situation and instead he insisted that the exams should take place there and that he would guarantee the security of the children.
5. That the Christian Association of Nigeria has formally accused the Governor of Borno State of ‘’conspiracy and collusion’’ and they have urged him to tell us exactly where the girls are and what he knows about the whole incident.
6. That the girls that have been kidnapped are being raped up to 15 times a day by their captors and that those amongst them that have refused to convert to Islam are having their throats cut (read the testimony of one of the girls that ‘’escaped’’ on page 8 of the Vanguard Newspaper, 5th April, 2014).
7. That there was not a single adult in the school grounds watching over the 278 girls that entire night apart from one security man and that there was no electricity, no generator, no principal, no matron, no house master and no house mistress in the grounds with them.
8. That the children were all alone in their dormitories that night in the blistering heat and deepest darkness before the Haramites arrived to burn their school and carried them away into captivity.
9. That the soldiers that were guarding the school in Chibok were redeployed a few hours before Boko Haram launched their attack and abducted the children.
10. That up till now pictures of the abducted girls have not been produced or released by the school authorities or the state government.
11. That this was a predominantly christian School and that Chibok is a predominantly Christian community.
At least 100 final-year students of Government Girls’ Secondary School in Chibok local government area of Borno State were abducted and taken to an unknown destination by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram on Monday night, eyewitnesses and security operatives have said.
LEADERSHIP gathered from impeccable sources that the gunmen who had engaged in a shootout with security operatives in Chibok town succeeded in killing a soldier and a police officer before taking the girls in a hijacked lorry into the bushes.
The students returned to school in spite of the recent shutdown of schools by the Borno state government to write their final-year examination (SSCE).
LEADERSHIP also gathered from credible sources from Chibok town which is about 135km from Maiduguri, the state capital, that some of the girls were able to escape while being driven away in the open truck.
The commissioner of police, Borno State command, Alhaji Lawan Tanko, was able to confirm the incident to journalists on phone but did not state the actual number of students that were abducted.
“We have received the report about the kidnapping of students by gunmen in a school in Chibok local government area last night; but we have no details on the actual number of the students for now; our men are still on the trail of the abductors,” he stated.
Efforts to get the local government chairman, Mr Babagana Chibok, were not successful as his number was not connecting. But a staff of Chibok local government told LEADERSHIP on phone that “the gunmen actually came in two Hilux pick-up vans but had to intercept a lorry that was conveying bags of grains to Askira-Uba local government; they offloaded the grains and ordered the abducted students into the lorry and took them away”.
He said, “We heard the girls wailing as the gunmen continued to shoot; we thought they were shooting the girls or something; but it was later on we understood from a few of them that were able to escape that they were being taken away by the gunmen.”
The local government official who pleaded not to be quoted for obvious security reasons told LEADERSHIP that some of the girls who had the village upbringing were able to demonstrate rare courage by holding unto tree branches as the lorry conveying them passed under low-branched tree and hung there until the unsuspecting kidnappers went far ahead before they would jump off the tree and flee back to the town.
“Many of the girls have been able to make it back through the bushes, but others are yet to be found; but we understand that the chairman of Chibok local government had led some security operatives to trail the track of the lorry,” said the LG worker.
A senior official of the State Security Service, who spoke off the record, told LEADERSHIP that two security men – a policeman and a soldier — died during the attack and abduction.
“The abduction happened at about 10pm when the hoodlums called Boko Haram attacked the school, killed a soldier and policeman and took away over 100 female students in a lorry. Luckily enough, our men have been able to trace the abductors to where the lorry conveying the girls broke down and our men have moved in to intercept the gunmen; but we understand that some of the girls were able to escape and make it back to the town,” he said.
Though Chibok, a quiet agrarian town, shares a very close border with Sambisa Forest, it has never experienced any attack by Boko Haram except in some of the nearby villages under its local government area.
The Borno State government had not reacted on the incident by press time and all efforts to get the commissioner for education, Musa Inuwa Kubo, was not fruitful.