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110 Schoolgirls Kidnapped In Nigeria


The Nigerian government is under mounting pressure to find 110 schoolgirls who were kidnapped more than a week ago in northeast Nigeria, likely by Boko Haram. This latest mass kidnapping echoes the abduction of almost 300 schoolgirls from Chibok by the extremist group four years ago. Now, that sparked global outrage the time, and now Nigerians are appalled again and are demanding answers from the authorities. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is monitoring developments and joins us.

Ofeibea, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: Remind us of what happened last week.

QUIST-ARCTON: First of all, Scott, let me tell you that it took the Nigerian government a week to confirm how many schoolgirls had been abducted, supposedly by Boko Haram on the 19th of February, from their boarding school in a remote part of northeast Nigeria, in Dapchi. Late at night, the girls were apparently in their dorms when they heard noises, people firing guns. Many managed to run away. But initially, we were told by the authorities that no girls had been abducted. Then a couple of days later, we were told that about a hundred girls had been rescued. And then the following day, the governor of Yobe State, where this happened, had to break the news to the families that, in fact, the military had rescued no girls at all.

SIMON: Any indication about their whereabouts or any other information?

QUIST-ARCTON: Absolutely not. Now, the Nigerian government, of course, has been scrambling now to try and catch up with itself. On Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari announced that it was extending the search for these missing girls - 110 of them, as you said - to neighboring countries because, of course, Boko Haram, although it hasn't claimed responsibility for this, is operating in that area. It has sent - the government has sent military assets, reconnaissance, planes, and aircraft and so on, and has deployed even more troops. But the question is, how come this government school was unprotected and that many Nigerians say we're seeing Chibok times two? Three hundred-odd girls abducted in 2014 and now 110 missing - so everybody is scrambling to try and find them, but big question marks as to, where are these girls?

SIMON: And Ofeibea, the Nigerian military and government keeps saying that Boko Haram is technically defeated, but it doesn't look that way on a week like this.

QUIST-ARCTON: And this is what frantic, heartbroken families are saying - how could it happen? Boko Haram is clearly not defeated because we see suicide bombings continue in this area of northeastern Nigeria. And just on Thursday, there was an attack in Rann across the border in Borno State, the epicenter of Boko Haram's insurgency. Eleven people, including three aid workers - among them, a doctor - were killed. And now the U.N. and Doctors Without Borders say because of the insecurity, they have had to suspend operations in Rann and pull out. So who is looking after all these desperate people? The government has a lot to answer for. Boko Haram is clearly not defeated. What are they doing about it?

SIMON: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton on the line from her base in Dakar. Thanks very much for being with us.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF LYMBYC SYSTYM'S "NARITA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.