New news from Nigeria – Monica Mark reports in the Guardian:
For two weeks, retired teacher Samson Dawah prayed for news of his niece Saratu, who was among more than 230 schoolgirls snatched by Boko Haram militants in the north-eastern Nigerian village of Chibok. Then on Monday the agonising silence was broken.
When Dawah called together his extended family members to give an update, he asked that the most elderly not attend, fearing they would not be able to cope with what he had to say. “We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls. They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants,” Dawah told his relatives.
As “wives” – meaning, as slaves, chattel, livestock; wholly-owned property to be poked at will.
Reports of the mass marriage came from a group that meets at dawn each day not far from the charred remains of the school. The ragtag gathering of fathers, uncles, cousins and nephews pool money for fuel before venturing unarmed into the thick forest, or into border towns that the militants have terrorised for months.
On Sunday, the searchers were told that the students had been divided into at least three groups, according to farmers and villagers who had seen truckloads of girls moving around the area. One farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents had paid leaders dowries and fired celebratory gunshots for several minutes after conducting mass wedding ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s unbearable. Our wives have grown bitter and cry all day. The abduction of our children and the news of them being married off is like hearing of the return of the slave trade,” said Yakubu Ubalala, whose 17- and 18-year-old daughters Kulu and Maimuna are among the disappeared.
And the rescue efforts are failing because Boko Haram has sleepers.
Nigeria’s armed forces face an uphill battle against the insurgents, who operate in small, mobile units and are drawn from communities that spill across the country’s porous desert borders. Near daily aerial bombardments have been halted as ground troops have poured into the forest in search of the girls.
“We are trying, but our efforts are being countered in a way that it is very clear they are being tipped off about our movements. Any time we make a plan to rescue [the girls] we have been ambushed,” said an artillery soldier among a rescue team announced by presidential decree over the weekend. In one clash, he said, 15 soldiers were killed by the insurgents.
“We know where these girls are being held in the forest, but every day we go in and come out disappointed. Definitely somebody high up in the chain of command is leaking up information to these people,” said the soldier, whom the Guardian was able to reach three times during shift breaks. Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, said in 2012 that Boko Haram had secret backers among government and security officials.
Those girls were sitting physics exams. I guess Boko Haram has shown them what they get for being so clever.