A day after Nigeria's defense chief claimed that the country's military knew the location of more than 200 missing schoolgirls, the State Department has noted that it has been unable to verify that claim. In a Tuesday statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki indicated that the U.S. also isn't thrilled with the Nigerian government's decision to say this publicly, even if the claim does turn out to be true. Here's the statement, via Reuters:
"We don't have independent information from the United States to support these reports you referenced...We, as a matter of policy and for the girls' safety and wellbeing, would not discuss publicly this sort of information regardless."
The comments come in response to Monday remarks by Nigerian Air Marshal Alex Badeh, who said that "the good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you." He added that the government had ruled out a forceful military response to rescue the girls, along with the possibility of negotiations with their Boko Haram-affiliated captors.
In addition to the State Department's statement, officials from the U.S. and the EU cast doubt on Nigeria's claims in interviews with Reuters. The countries were assisting Nigeria's search with intelligence data. "The officials said that as far as they knew, technical intelligence systems had not produced precise or credible information establishing the girls' location," Reuters noted.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, the military may have been relying on sightings from hunters and herdsmen in northeastern Nigeria, who have been reporting what they see back to the military. But this isn't the first time an official statement from the military has faced scrutiny, both for its accuracy and for the wisdom of the statement itself. As the Journal notes, one unnamed Nigerian official said it was probably unwise to disclose the breakthrough: "It was not strategic to say it. When you come out and say you know where they are—they'll just move them," he said.