Britain and the United States of America have joined the search for the 234 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno, by the Boko Haram sect, SUNDAY PUNCH can authoritatively report.
The girls were kidnapped in their hostel on April 14 after members of the sect, pretending to be soldiers, lured the pupils away from their hostel before setting it ablaze.
About 30 of the girls escaped from captivity while about a dozen, who fled into the bush when the sect attacked the school, have since returned to the school.
The military had initially claimed that it had rescued all but 18 of the girls but the school principal, Asabe Kwabura, debunked the statement.
Parents who tried to rescue their children from the Sambisa Forest where the pupils are reportedly being kept by Boko Haram had to turn back when they learnt that the sect was heavily armed and that they might lose their lives in the process.
An enlarged Security Council meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday directed the military to do everything possible to rescue the schoolgirls.
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said his country had begun talks with Nigeria over the incident.
He stated this in a response made available to our correspondent by the spokesperson of the British High Commission in Abuja, Mr. Robert Fitzpatrick.
Hague said, “The appalling abduction in northern Nigeria on April 14 is a stark reminder of the threat of sexual violence faced by women in conflict prone areas.
“I am very concerned that the majority of the girls are still missing. I spoke to Nigerian Foreign Minister, Wali, about this case on 18 April, and we are talking to Nigerian authorities about how best to assist in their efforts to secure the girls’ release and bring those responsible to justice.”
Similarly, in a response to SUNDAY PUNCH’s inquiry, the Canadian Counsellor in Abuja, Ms. Alexandra Mackenzie, said her country was disturbed by the news of the abducted girls.
She said, “We are very concerned about the case of the kidnapped girls in the North-East.
“The High Commission of Canada is following the development closely here in Nigeria.”
It was further gathered on Friday that the Federal Government had also enlisted the intelligence services of the United States in the search for the abducted pupils.
A competent security source said the Federal Government would rely on the higher technology of the US and UK to facilitate the search for the missing girls.
The source, who pleaded anonymity, stated that there would be no physical presence of operatives of the Western agencies in the operation to rescue the girls.
He added that security operatives engaged in the search for the pupils had made some arrests.
The source did not disclose the number of suspects arrested in relation to the incident.
It was gathered that those arrested included a security guard at the school and some members of the Chibok community, whose names came up during the military’s interaction with some of the girls who escaped from the insurgents.
The source stated, “The whole emphasis is on intelligence gathering; and that is why the Federal Government is contacting the US and the UK to assist in the area of intelligence gathering.
“Another thing you must know is that several arrests have been made, and a lot of efforts are being made.
“The security guard at the school in Chibok is being quizzed and some people from the community too have been arrested,” the source said.
When our correspondent contacted the Director of Defence Information, Maj.-Gen Chris Olukolade, for his comment on the search for the abducted girls, he said, “The search for the girls is being intensified.”