Nigeria abductions: Parents scour woods for daughters

Will Ross reports on the abduction of dozens of teenager girls in Nigeria

The parents of some of the girls abducted from a school in north-east Nigeria have headed into the forest in a desperate search for their daughters.

More than 100 schoolgirls were taken by suspected Islamist militants on Monday night. The military said on Wednesday that most of the girls had escaped.

However, local officials and parents said more than 100 were still missing.

It is thought Islamist militant group Boko Haram took the girls to forested areas near the Cameroonian border.

The group is waging a bloody campaign for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria.

The attack on the school in Chibok, a remote part of Borno state, happened late on Monday. Gunmen reportedly stormed the school and ordered the students onto lorries.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed concern over the plight of the girls.

He called an emergency security meeting for Thursday, which was expected to review security measures around Nigeria, including the state of emergency declared in three north-eastern states which is set to expire soon.

Dangerous mission

On Thursday, Asabe Kwambura, principal of the school where the girls were abducted, told journalists that the report from the military was "not true" and that only 14 of the 129 kidnapped girls had escaped.

A map showing Borno state and the town of Chibok in Nigeria

An aide to the local state governor, who asked not to be named, also told Reuters that "only 14 of the students have returned".

Parents of the girls have told the BBC that more than 100 girls are still missing. The girls are believed to be being held in the Sambisa forest in north-east Nigeria.

Boko Haram at a glance

  • Founded in 2002
  • Official Arabic name, Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, means "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad"
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education
  • Nicknamed Boko Haram, a phrase in the local Hausa language meaning "Western education is forbidden"
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state across Nigeria
  • Founding leader Mohammed Yusuf killed in same year in police custody
  • Succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, who the military wrongly claimed in 2013 had been killed

A group of parents have raised money to buy fuel and water, and have headed into the forest with a local vigilante group to search for the girls.

It is an extremely dangerous mission, the BBC's Will Ross in Lagos reports. The well-armed Boko Haram fighters have killed hundreds of civilians this year, slitting the throats of many of their victims, he says.

One father told the BBC he was willing to die in the forest in the attempt to free his daughter.

The air force, army, police, local defence units and volunteers have all been involved in the search for the schoolgirls.

Correspondents say the raid on the boarding school is a great source of embarrassment for the Nigerian authorities, who have been saying that their military campaign against the militants is succeeding.

Militants from Boko Haram - which means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language - frequently target educational institutions.

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