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Nigerian president vows to free abducted girls

Updated: 2014-05-06 07:23
By Agencies in Lagos, Nigeria ( China Daily)

Nigerian president vows to free abducted girls

A mother cries out on April 29 during a demonstration with others who have daughters among the kidnapped school girls of government secondary school Chibok, in Abuja, Nigeria. Gbemiga Olamikan / Associated Press

Jonathan says their disappearance will not become 'another mystery'

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed on Sunday to ensure the release of 223 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist Boko Haram militants, saying he has sought help from US President Barack Obama to overcome the nation's security challenges.

"We promise that anywhere the girls are, we will surely get them out," Jonathan said in a live broadcast on radio and television.

"This is a trying time for this country ... it is painful," he said, and pleaded for the cooperation of parents, guardians and the local communities in the rescue efforts.

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram militants, said on Monday he would sell the schoolgirls "on the market".

Besides the United States, Jonathan said that Nigeria has also approached other world powers, including France, Britain and China, for help on security issues.

Premier Li Keqiang was scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum, which begins on Wednesday in the Nigerian capital Abuja, as part of his first tour of Africa since taking office last year.

"We are talking to countries we think can help us out. ... The United States is number one. I have talked to President Obama at least twice" about Nigeria's security situation, Jonathan said.

The president did not say when exactly he opened the talks with his US counterpart and other world leaders.

"We will get over our (security) challenge," he said.

He said that Nigerians were "justified if they expressed their anger against government" over the perceived slowness in rescuing the girls who were kidnapped on April 14 from their hostel in Chibok, a town in northeast Borno state.

He assured that the "disappearance" of the girls would not be another global "mystery".

"Their disappearance cannot be another mystery the world cannot resolve," he said, in reference to the missing Malaysian passenger jet that has not been found despite the vast multinational search deployed.

The Nigerian leader said his government is also seeking the cooperation of neighboring countries - Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin - in its efforts to rescue the abducted girls, most of whom are between the ages of 16 and 18.

He called for the support, "commitment and empathy" of Nigerians in these efforts.

"Government needs assistance," he said.

He dismissed insinuations that the government was negotiating with the Boko Haram Islamists, slamming them as a faceless group.

"You don't negotiate with somebody you don't know. ... The issue of negotiation has not come up," he said, describing the Boko Haram movement as "madness".

Earlier on Sunday, Jonathan ordered a stepped-up drive to free the schoolgirls, whose abduction has ignited a global outcry.

Jonathan has come under mounting pressure since Boko Haram gunmen stormed the girls' boarding school on April 14, forcing them from their dormitories onto trucks and driving them into the bush.

A Nigerian newspaper published an interview on Sunday with two of the girls who got away, who told of their abduction and "desperate" escape.

Anger at the government's ineffectual response has fuelled protests at home and abroad, including in New York where dozens of Nigerians staged a demonstration on Saturday demanding that more action be taken.

The government said it has set up a committee, presided over by a senior army general, to advise on a mission to secure the release of the girls.

Jonathan appealed to parents and guardians to provide useful information as well photo identities of the abducted girls, adding that troops have "been checking everywhere" to locate them.

'We will find them'

"Let the parents and guardians come out and help us. We promise we will find these girls," he said as he ended the interview.

Nigerian authorities on Monday arrested a leader of a protest last week that called on them to do more to find abducted girls, a presidency source said.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the arrest, but the presidency source said Naomi Mutah Nyadar had been detained for allegedly and falsely claiming to be the mother of one of the missing girls.

But Saratu Angus Ndirpaya, one of the protest leaders, told Al-Jazeera that she and Nyadar had been arrested on the orders of Patience Jonathan, Nigeria's first lady, who accused them of fabricating the abduction of the schoolgirls in a plot to undermine her husband's rule. The first lady also accused the two women of being members of Boko Haram, Al-Jazeera said.