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Chibok schoolgirls rescue may take years, says defence minister

It may take years to find all the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014, Defence Minister Brig.-Gen. Mansur Ali has said.

Boko Haram insurgents invaded the all-girls Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State and forcefully took away 276 pupils.

Three years after the abduction, the insurgents are still holding on to 195 of the girls, with the Federal Government expressing readiness to negotiate their freedom.

Speaking to VOA’s Hausa Service, monitored in Yola yesterday, Brig.-Gen Ali, said the military was committed to finding the girls and still combing Boko Haram hideouts in the Sambisa Forest.

He likened the troops’ inability to find the girls despite retaking most of the territories initially occupied by Boko Haram to the United States (U.S.) efforts to find Osama bin Laden after the invasion of Afghanistan.

The minister said: “It took the U.S. up to seven, eight, up to 10 years before they could get to bin Laden. We are continuing our campaign in the Sambisa Forest in all its nooks and corners.”

Some activists under the auspices of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group demanded more from the Federal Government to free the girls during the third anniversary of the girls’ abductions.

In his statement to mark the abduction’s anniversary, President Muhammed Buhari pledged that his administration will do everything possible to ensure the freedom of the girls.

In 2014, Boko Haram seized control of about 14 local government areas in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. They have since lost virtually all the territory under their hold to the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

But despite the success, the government’s inability to find the remaining 195 schoolgirls has overshadowed the military gains.

Reacting to the abduction on the VOA programme, an Islamic cleric, Nuru Khalid, a member of the influential Interfaith group raised to ensure peace between Muslims and Christians, said failure to find the girls would translate into a victory for Boko Haram.

“We can never allow the terrorists to win the war. If they got (away) free with those girls, then they have relatively won the war”, he said.

Also, a human rights’ lawyer, Bulama Bukar, said the government needs to address the psychological trauma suffered by the families of the missing girls and other victims of Boko Haram brutality.

“Married women have been made single again; kids have been orphaned; homeowners are without shelter; Nigerians have been turned into refugees in their own homeland,” he said.

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