- Rescue will be very difficult – US defence chief
- We’ll surely find them, Jonathan assures
By Lawrence Olaoye, with agency reports
There are indications that the Nigerian government has initiated secret moves to contact the leadership of the dreaded Boko Haram, as another means of securing the release of the remaining 233 schoolgirls abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state on April 14.
One of United Kingdom’s top TV stations, Sky News, disclosed yesterday that an intelligence sources revealed to it that the government has made an indirect contact with Boko Haram over the abduction.
This is coming just as the United States of America’s Defence Secretary, Chuk Hagel, warned that finding the abducted girls may not be an easy task after all.
Nevertheless, President Goodluck Jonathan has said yesterday he was very optimistic that success will soon be achieved.
According to Sky News, its sources further revealed that Nigeria’s neighbours – Chad, Cameroon and Niger – are also providing satellite imagery to help find the girls.
The TV station said retired Air Commodore Darlington Abdullahi, had meanwhile hinted that insurgents may have laid booby traps and landmines to stop the girls being found. “They may have made land mines, one cannot rule that out”, said Air Commodore Abdullahi.
Search efforts have been further hampered by reports that two important bridges near the borders with Chad and Cameroon have been destroyed by militants last week, therefore hindering the movements of rescue teams.
But when contacted to confirm the report that government had initiated talks with the Boko Haram leadership for possible negotiation of the release of the abducted girls, the Director of Defence Information, Major General Chris Olukolade, said such enquiries should be directed to the Presidency.
But the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, when contacted, said he was not aware of that.
Meanwhile, though the US has signified its intention to help Nigeria in finding the girls, it has ruled out the possibility of mobilizing its troops into the country for the rescue efforts.
The US defense chief, in an interview with ABC TV in Washington at the weekend maintained that: “There’s no intention, at this point, to (put) American boots on the ground.”
Hagel was far from upbeat about chances of finding the girls. He said: “It will be very difficult. It’s a vast country. This is not going to be an easy task.
“We’re going to bring to bear every asset we can possibly use to help the Nigerian government,” he assured.
But President Jonathan yesterday expressed optimism that the abducted girls would soon be rescued, following the willingness of some world leaders to give a helping hand in the rescue efforts.
This assurance was given when Jonathan engaged the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, in a telephone conversation, where the latter promised to make available a team of Israeli counter-terrorism experts to assist in the ongoing search and rescue operations.
According to a statement issued by Dr. Abati, “The President briefed Mr. Netanyahu on actions already being taken by Nigeria’s armed forces and security agencies to locate and rescue the girls, saying that Nigeria would be pleased to have Israel’s globally-acknowledged anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations.
“Mr. Netanyahu who expressed Israel’s total condemnation of the mass abductions, said that the team of experts from his country who will soon arrive in Nigeria, will work in collaboration with teams from the United States and Britain who are already in the country and their Nigerian counterparts to intensify the search for the girls.
“He reaffirmed Israel’s willingness to give the government and people of Nigeria all possible support and assistance to overcome terrorism and insecurity”, the statement added.