ABC News(ABUJA, Nigeria) — Nigerian authorities failed to act on warnings about Boko Haram’s imminent raid on a boarding school where it abducted more than 240 girls last month, according to Amnesty international.
The London-based human rights group, after verifying the information with “credible sources,” said Nigerian security forces knew of the attack four hours before Boko Haram struck.
“The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director, research and advocacy, said Friday in a statement. “It amounts to a gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians, who remain sitting ducks for such attacks. The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls’ safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again.”
Among the locals who sounded the alarm, civilian patrols set up by the military in a neighboring village triggered a chain of phone calls the evening of April 14 after they noticed unidentified armed men on motorbikes heading toward Chibok, where the schoolgirls were later abducted, according to sources Amnesty International has interviewed.
The human rights group says that two senior officials in Nigeria’s armed forces have confirmed the military’s being aware of the planned attack, including one who said a commander was unable to mobilize reinforcements.
ABC News has been unable to get an immediate comment from the Nigerian government.
Meanwhile, a peace negotiator used in previous formal negotiations with Boko Haram — the group responsible for kidnapping hundreds of school girls — has proposed a formal negotiation process to the Nigerian government that he hopes will allow for the girls’ safe return.
The operation could be convened quickly, with the girls returned, alive, within a week, Shehu Sani told ABC News.
The negotiating team should involve a committee of Islamic clerics from the north-eastern region of the country, along with insurgents who are in prison, he said. Sani said he believes Boko Haram will be willing to return the girls in exchange for their members who have been incarcerated.
Boko Haram’s threats to “sell” the girls into slavery is a positive signal because, normally, they vow to “kill” their captives, he added.
“Hope is not lost, as long as these girls are alive,” Sani said.
The peace negotiator, who has previously traveled to Maiduguri in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria, for direct talks with Boko Haram leadership in a burned-out mosque, is concerned that international attention is forcing Nigeria’s government to take a hardline but miscalculated approach.
“This government is helpless and hopeless on solving the problem” he said. “The most important thing is to get them back alive, and you cannot do that through force.”
Instead of convening a negotiating mission, the Nigerian government has appointed a committee led by military and intelligence chiefs, to whom Boko Haram will be unwilling to talk, Sani said.
He cited recent examples of armed raids, attempting to rescue foreign hostages, that have resulted in the death of captives.
“The government of Nigeria is pretending to be serious simply because the world is taking an interest,” he said.
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