U.S Drone Finds Abducted Chibok Girls

Source: pointblanknews.com

Recent U.S. surveillance flights over northeastern Nigeria showed what

appeared to be large groups of girls held together in remote locations,

raising hopes among domestic and foreign officials that they are among the

group that Boko Haram abducted from a boarding school in April, U.S. and

Nigerian officials said.
The surveillance suggests that at least some of the 219 schoolgirls still

held captive haven't been forced into marriage or sex slavery, as had been

feared, but instead are being used as bargaining chips for the release of

The U.S. aerial imagery matches what Nigerian officials say they hear from

northern Nigerians who have interacted with the Islamist insurgency: that

some of Boko Haram's most famous set of captives are getting special

treatment, compared with the hundreds of other girls the group is

suspected to have kidnapped. Boko Haram appears to have seen the

schoolgirls as of higher value, given the global attention paid to their

plight, those officials said.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces re-election in February,

is under political pressure to secure the girls' release, with some people

urging him to agree to a prisoner swap.
His government has ruled out a rescue operation, saying it is unwilling to

risk the girls' lives, or a prisoner swap.
“We don't exchange innocent people for criminals. That is not in the

cards,” said Mr. Jonathan's spokesman, Reuben Abati, last week in an

In early July, U.S. surveillance flights over northeastern Nigeria spotted

a group of 60 to 70 girls held in an open field, said two U.S. defense

officials. Late last month, they spotted a set of roughly 40 girls in a

different field.
When surveillance flights returned, both sets of girls had been moved.

U.S. intelligence analysts say they don't have enough information to

confirm whether the two groups of girls they saw are the same, they said.

They also can't say whether those groups included any of the girls the

group has held since April. But U.S. and Nigerian officials said they

believe they are indeed those schoolgirls.
“It's unusual to find a large group of young women like that in an open

space,” said one U.S. defense official. “We're assuming they're not a rock

band of hippies out there camping.”
A wave of intermediaries acting on their own has tried to negotiate the

girls' release, Mr. Abati said, adding that the president has neither

authorized nor discouraged those efforts.
Several of those intermediaries have said Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar

Shekau, has ordered his fighters to treat the girls as valuable

hostages—not sex slaves—one senior Nigerian security adviser said.

“He gave a directive that anybody found touching any of the girls should

be killed immediately,” the adviser said. “If true, it is cheering.”

It would also show that Boko Haram is trying to follow an al Qaeda tactic

of swapping hostages for money and political gain.

The group is accelerating its kidnapping of foreigners and politicians:

Over the past two months, it has been blamed for abducting a German

expatriate, 10 Chinese laborers in nearby Cameroon and the wife of

Cameroon's deputy prime minister.
Boko Haram has used hostages in the past to demand the exchange of its

prisoners held in both Nigeria and Cameroon, which was one of the

conditions for the release of a French family from captivity last year.

Now, the group appears to be testing the bargaining power of a group of

girls who had been ordinary teenagers at a school—until their abduction on

the night of April 14. That night, fighters with the Islamist

insurgency—which is opposed to modern education— stormed a boarding school

and drove 276 girls away hours before their final exams. Fifty-seven later

The captivity of the rest became a cause célèbre, prompting a Twitter

campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, that was joined by notable figures including

Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. It also spurred Boko Haram's latest

effort to get its captives released from crowded Nigerian prisons—a

long-standing grievance. Three months after seizing the girls, Boko

Haram's leader, Mr. Shekau, appeared in a video demanding a prisoner

exchange. “You are saying bring back our girls,” thundered the bearded

gunman, before firing his AK-47 into the air. “We are saying bring back

our men!”
Dozens of demonstrators still gather in the capital each day to press for

the girls' freedom.
Their rallies have become a referendum on whether Nigerian

women—particularly poor, young, Muslim girls—are valued by a government of

mostly wealthy, elderly, Christian men.
Mr. Abati said Mr. Jonathan has worked tirelessly to win the girls' freedom.

It isn't clear how many of the girls Boko Haram can deliver. A former

Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who has a history of contact with

the group, has said some of the girls are likely dead or pregnant. Only

about 130 of them—out of 219 missing— appeared in the sole video of the

girls that Boko Haram has ever provided.
Meanwhile, the international effort to find the girls has waned: The U.S.

military is now carrying out just one surveillance flight a day, mostly by

manned aircraft, totaling only 35 to 40 hours a week, said U.S. defense

officials, as drones have been shifted back toward other operations.

Some accounts suggest the burden of providing for scores of girls has

become a point of dissension in Boko Haram's ranks.

In July, four girls and women aged 16 to 22 hid in their bedrooms as Boko

Haram fighters broke into their home in the town of Damboa, they each said

in an interview last week. They feared they would be kidnapped.

When their aunt, Fatima Abba, argued on their behalf, the roughly 20 Boko

Haram insurgents decided not to kidnap them—and instead began to complain

about the scores of schoolgirls they already have.

“They are always crying. They behave like children,” Ms. Abba quoted the

Boko Haram fighters as saying of the schoolgirls. “We don't want them

Culled from wsj.com
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