The families of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014, marked 500 days since their abduction on Thursday. Fresh efforts by Nigeria’s government to end the Islamist insurgency have done little to renew hopes of the girls’ rescue.
The date was marked as the security situation deteriorated in north-eastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram has stepped up its deadly attacks since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, killing more than 1 000 people in three months.
Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok in Borno state on the evening of April 14 last year, seizing 276 girls who were preparing for end-of-year exams. Fifty-seven girls subsequently escaped, but nothing has been heard of the 219 others since May last year when around 100 of them appeared in a Boko Haram video, dressed in Muslim attire and reciting the Koran.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has since said they have all converted to Islam and been “married off”. He earlier threatened to sell them. The Chibok abduction was one of 38 documented by the London-based rights group since the beginning of 2014, with women and girls who escaped saying they were subject to forced labour and marriage as well as rape.
In an April report, Amnesty International quoted a senior military officer as saying the girls were being held at various Boko Haram camps, including in Cameroon and possibly Chad. Fulan Nasrullah, a respected Nigerian security analyst and blogger who claims specialist knowledge of the inner workings of Boko Haram, told AFP there was “no hope” of ever recovering most of the Chibok girls.
“Most have had kids by now and are married to their captors. Many have been sold into the global sex trade and are probably prostituting in Sudan, Dubai, Cairo and other far-flung places,” he said.