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Nigerians demand government do more to bring home kidnapped girls

By Faith Karimi and Vladimir Duthiers, CNN
updated 1:47 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "We mandate the federal government to bring back our daughters," musician says
  • Armed men herded the girls out of bed and forced them into trucks on April 14
  • The convoy of trucks disappears into the dense forest bordering Cameroon
  • Angry parents accuse authorities of playing politics with the lives of their children

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nigerians took to the streets Thursday to demand the government do more to rescue scores of girls abducted by militants more than two weeks ago.

Militants seized about 230 girls in the dead of the night at a high school in the nation's far northeast, a hotbed for Islamist group Boko Haram.

Armed men herded the girls out of bed and forced them into trucks on April 14 in the town of Chibok. The convoy of trucks then disappeared into the dense forest bordering Cameroon.

Roughly 200 girls are still missing, although the authorities and parents differ on the number.

Map of the region  Map of the region
Map of the regionMap of the region
Police in riot gear block a route in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday, October 14, during a demonstration calling on the Nigerian government to rescue schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. In April, more than 200 girls were abducted from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria, officials and witnesses said. Police in riot gear block a route in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday, October 14, during a demonstration calling on the Nigerian government to rescue schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. In April, more than 200 girls were abducted from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria, officials and witnesses said.
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
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Photos: Nigerians protest over kidnapped girls Photos: Nigerians protest over kidnapped girls
Nigerians react to schoolgirl abductions
Survivor's tale of Nigerian violence

Nigerians have rallied for days to criticize the government's handling of the rescue efforts. Hundreds wept and chanted "bring back our girls" during protests in the capital of Abuja on Wednesday. A day later, protesters gathered in Lagos.

Shortly after the abductions last month, frustrated Chibok residents went into the forest in motorbikes to search for the girls.

During their nine-hour trek, they never saw a single soldier in the forest where authorities believe the militants took the girls, said Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces were among the kidnapped.

"A total of 230 parents registered the names of their daughters who were missing on the day of the kidnap," said Asabe Kwambura, principal of the Government Girls Secondary School. "From my records, 43 girls have so far escaped on their own from their kidnappers. We still have 187 girls missing."

Boko Haram still holding Nigerian school girls captive

Angry relatives

In Chibok, angry parents accused authorities of playing politics with the lives of their children.

Witnesses have seen militants in dozens of vehicles headed to nearby Cameroon, said Ayuba Alamson, whose two nieces were among the kidnapped.

In a statement Thursday, Nigeria's Defense Ministry said it's committed to the search.

"A lot of information has been received in the efforts at securing the freedom of the girls. The armed forces assures all Nigerians that it will continue to appraise every information received during this operation accordingly," it said. .

"While it will not relent in its efforts in this search, the armed forces is mindful of the fact that some of the information with which it has been inundated are actually a ploy to distract it from its goal of dealing with terrorism and other violent crimes aimed at crippling the nation."

What is Boko Haram?

Borno state Education Commissioner Musa Inuwa Kubo similarly said that the government and military are doing whatever it takes to secure their release.

"This is a delicate situation that requires careful handling," Kubo said. "When you have heavily armed men holding close to 200 girls hostage, you have to be very careful in your approach so as not to risk the safety of these girls you want to rescue.

Students thought kidnappers were soldiers
Many Nigerian school girls still missing
Nigeria and Boko Haram analysis

He said authorities are withholding information for safety reasons.

"It is a security issue and we just can't be divulging all the efforts we are making to get these girls freed," the education commissioner said.

Why terror group kidnaps schoolgirls, and what happens next

#BringBackOurGirls

But angry Nigerians said authorities are not doing enough. They took to social media using hashtags #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters to demand more from the government.

David Peter, a sound engineer, music producer and recording artist in Lagos, sent CNN an iReport in which he calls on the government to do more.

"If you're not safe anywhere in the world, you should be safe in your house, in your own back yard. We mandate the federal government to bring back our daughters, and our children," he said.

Boko Haram's name translates to "Western education is a sin" in the local language.

The group especially opposes the education of women. Under its version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write.

Rights groups say the militants kidnap girls to perform chores and sexual services.

A bloody insurgency, a growing challenge

Opinion: Why no international effort for 200 kidnapped girls?

CNN's Vladimir Duthiers reported from Lagos, and Faith Karimi wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN's Antonia Mortensen, Nana Karikari-apau and Millicent Smith contributed to this report.

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