One week after their abduction from their school, more than 200 girls are still missing in Nigeria, as anger and criticism grows over the military's failure to stave off attacks by Islamic extremists. The schoolgirls, aged between 16 and 18, were taken in the early hours of the morning last Tuesday from a remote boarding school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, reportedly by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. The group's name translates into, "Western education is a sin," and it's thought that the girls will be used as sex slaves and cooks.
While there have been numerous false reports and misreported statistics, the Associated Press says that at least 200 girls and young women are still believed to be missing. A number of girls escaped their captors early on from the back of the truck that was carrying them, but just how many “depends on whom you ask,” write Michelle Faul and Haruna Umar at the Associated Press. It could be 39, 43, or more than 50. Officials in Chibok said that 129 students were abducted — the number called into school to sit an exam — but parents gave the governor of Borno state, where Chibok is located, a list of 234 girls who are missing. According to Asabe Kwambura, the school's principal, 43 students are accounted for and 234 are missing.
The mass abduction, one day after a deadly bus station attack in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, comes at a troubling time as many wonder if the country is fighting a losing battle against Boko Haram. Speaking with Voice of America, one man said, "Nigerians are afraid. Nigerians are scared. The security [forces] say they are in control but from the looks of things, I doubt it they are." In Nigeria’s three northeastern states, which make up one-sixth of the country, there has been an 11-month-long state of emergency, and schools have shut down completely out of fear of being targets of more violent attacks. The Islamic insurgency in Nigeria, and the response by the military, has displaced 750,000 people, and 1,500 have been killed this year alone.
And as Faul and Umar report, the kidnapping is the latest “embarrassment for Nigeria’s military,” particularly after Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Chirs Olukolade retracted a statement made last week which stated that all but eight of the girls has been rescued. Despite Olukolade telling the AP that the search for the girls continue and that more troops will be deployed, “It seems every time the military trumpets a success in its ‘onslaught on terrorists,’ the extremists step up the tempo and deadliness of attacks,” Faul and Umar write.
Fathers of some of the abducted students, frustrated with the ineptitude of security forces, have branched out on their own searches, heading 30 miles deep into the forest on motorcycles. So far, the search effort hasn't found any students.