A Nigerian military official says the nearly 300 school girls abducted by Islamic extremists six weeks ago have been located. But the country\’s chief of defense says an assault to free them could get them killed.
More than 200 girls were abducted by Boko Haram gunmen from their school in northern Nigeria in April.
Chief of Defense Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh told reporters in Abuja Monday that a military operation could be dangerous for the girls. He said, "We can\’t kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."
Badeh said, "The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you… We cannot come and tell you military secrets. Just leave us alone, we are working, we will get the girls back."
Badeh was addressing demonstrators who had marched to the Ministry of Defence in Abuja to protest against the government\’s response.
"Nobody should come and say the Nigerian military does not know what it\’s doing," he told the crowd. "We know what we are doing."
"The president is solidly behind us. The president has empowered us to do the work," Badeh said.
The girls, who were mainly Christian, are thought to be held in a remote forested area of the north-eastern Borno state, close to the border with Chad and Cameroon.
The girls were kidnapped in mid-April while taking exams in a secondary school in the remote northern village of Chibok.
Militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram claim responsibility for the kidnappings and say they want to exchange the abducted girls for members of its group who are in prison.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his government are facing sharp criticism both domestically and internationally for their failure to rescue the missing girls.
Several countries, including the Untied States, are providing Nigeria with help to look for the girls.
Boko Haram is blamed for thousands of killings during its five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state. In recent weeks, the group has stepped up the frequency and intensity of its attacks.