Rescuers Deliver Most, But Not All, Nigerian Schoolgirls To Safety
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
In Nigeria, all but eight girls kidnapped from a boarding school earlier this week have been rescued, according to the Nigerian military. As many as 100 girls have been missing after heavily-armed militants from the Islamist group known as Boko Haram raided their dorm. Boko Haram, whose name in the local Hausa language translates roughly as Western education is sinful, has been waging a campaign of violence in northern Nigeria. The students' kidnapping comes on the heels of a bus bombing out the outskirts of Nigeria's capital that killed some 70 people early Monday.
We're joined now by NPR's Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. And Ofeibea, let's start with the rescue. What details have you learned about it and what's known about how the kidnapping happened in the first place?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Audie, it's a very short statement from Nigeria's military quoting the school principal, saying that eight girls remain unaccounted for and it has rescued the others, but very few details. How the girls became free, whether they were rescued by soldiers, and what condition they're in. Now, we're told that late overnight, on Monday, the girls had gone back to school because they are taking their final exams. Schools have been closed in Borno state. But from the descriptions of some of the girls who were able to escape from their abductors, gunmen burst into their rooms. Told them not to panic. And then the girls were piled into an open truck. And it was when the truck had problems that some girls were able to jump down and run into the bush. So it's not clear that the military is talking about the girls who managed to escape themselves, or whether the latest lot of schoolgirls were rescued by the military themselves, who are doing a search-and-rescue operation we're told.
CORNISH: And Boko Haram has waged similar attacks on schools in the past, correct?
QUIST-ARCTON: Absolutely. And in the past, boys have been killed. They have had their throats slit like sacrificial lambs. And that sort of ties in with the name of Boko Haram, Western education is sinful. They say that they want to Islamize northern Nigeria, that they want to impose strict Shariah, Islamic law and true Islamic law, that Nigerian Muslims are not practicing proper laws. But in the past, girls have been spared but with the warning, Audie: Go home. Get married and stop school. So Western education is sinful seems to go through their ideology, although Boko Haram - and they haven't yet claimed responsibility for this attack on the school or the raid on the bus park on Abuja, the capital, they are being blamed by the authorities and President Goodluck Jonathan in particular.
CORNISH: Tell us more about the response from Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan. What does he have to say this week?
QUIST-ARCTON: He went to the sight of the bus park bombing on Monday, but very little has been said by the authorities about this attack on the school, which is in northeastern Nigeria, which has become the zone of operations of Boko Haram. That is where they were set up years ago. So people are saying that government has got to stop this insurgency. They have promised. They have imposed emergency rule in three northeastern states, and yet the bombers and the terrorists, as they're called, are able to attack at will. This must stop.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Ofeibea, thank you.
QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.
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