Nigeria’s military has located nearly 300 school girls abducted by Islamic extremists but fears using force to try to free them could get them killed, the country’s chief of defense said Monday.
Air Marshal Alex Badeh told demonstrators supporting the much criticized military that Nigerian troops can save the girls. But he added, “we can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.”
He spoke to thousands of demonstrators who marched to Defense Ministry headquarters in Abuja, the capital. Many were brought in on buses, indicating it was an organized event.
Asked by reporters where they had found the girls, Badeh refused to elaborate.
“We want our girls back. I can tell you we can do it. Our military can do it. But where they are held, can we go with force?” he asked the crowd.
People roared back, “No!”
“If we go with force what will happen?” he asked.
“They will die,” the demonstrators said.
Badeh said no one should criticize the military.
“Nobody should come and say the Nigerian military does not know what it is doing. We know what we are doing,” he insisted.
Nigeria’s military and government have faced national and international outrage over their failure to rescue the girls seized by Boko Haram militants from a remote northeastern school six weeks ago.
President Goodluck Jonathan was forced this month to accept international help. American planes have been searching for the girls and Britain, France, Israel and other countries have sent experts in surveillance and hostage negotiation.
More than 300 teenagers were abducted from their school in the town Chibok on April 15. Police say 53 escaped on their own and 276 remain captive.