In what seemed to have been an embarrassing blow to its perception from an increasingly skeptical public, the Nigerian military Thursday retracted a report that nearly all the 129 school girls kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram militants had been released.
Just hours after a parent of an abducted girl claimed the Defense Ministry lied Wednesday about all but eight girls finding freedom, the director of defense said the initial report was “not intended to deceive the public.”
Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade’s statement didn’t indicate how many of the girls were still unaccounted for.
“The number of those still missing is not the issue now as the life of every Nigerian is very precious,” it said.
We ‘ran into the bush’- Escapee Gives Account of Ordeal
The incident began Monday night, when militants engaged in a gunbattle with guards at the boarding school, and then herded the students onto vehicles and drove off, authorities said.
“They left with us in a convoy into the bush,” said one girl who escaped, but, citing security concerns, declined to identify herself. “A group of motorcyclists flanked the convoy to ensure none of us escaped.”
When a truck broke down, the girls inside were transferred to another truck and the broken one was set afire, the girl said.
Another vehicle then broke down and, as the men tried to fix it, “some of us jumped out of the vehicles and ran into the bush,” she said. “We later found our way back to Chibok.”
Britain offers help
UNICEF has called for the girls’ “immediate and unconditional release” and said attacks on Nigerian schools are getting out of control.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was among the world leaders condemning the kidnappings.
“We stand ready to provide assistance to help the Nigerian government ensure that these children can be returned to their families in safety, and to bring to justice those responsible” for the “cowardly act,” he said.