As condemnation of the abductions spread, Saudi Arabia's grand
mufti, the top religious authority in the birthplace of Islam, said
Boko Haram rebels who conducted the abductions had "set up to smear
the image of Islam".
Jonathan's government has been criticized for its slow response to
the hostage crisis, and Friday is the first time he has said where
he thinks the girls are being held.
"There are stories that they have moved them outside of the country.
But if they move that number of girls to Cameroon, people will see,
so I believe they are still in Nigeria," Jonathan told journalists.
"We are also working with the experts that will use remote sensors
to see them (insurgents) wherever they are. So that basically says
they are within the Sambisa area," Jonathan said, referring to a
forest that is a known Boko Haram hideout near the school from where
the girls were abducted.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the
Nigerian capital. The event showcased investment opportunities in
Africa's biggest economy, but was partially overshadowed by the
kidnapping and a broader militant threat.
Boko Haram's struggle for an Islamic state has killed thousands
since it erupted in mid-2009 and has destabilized swathes of the
northeast of Africa's top oil producer, as well as neighbors
Cameroon and Niger.
Militants stormed a secondary school in the village of Chibok, near
the Cameroon border, on April 14, and kidnapped the girls, who were
taking exams at the time. Fifty have since escaped, but more than
200 remain with the insurgents.
Nigeria's military has struggled to maintain security in the
turbulent northeast as Boko Haram grows bolder.
Human rights group Amnesty International said in a statement, citing
multiple interviews with sources, that the security forces had been
warned more than four hours in advance about the school attack but
did not do enough to stop it.
"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," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty's Africa director
of research and advocacy.
Nigeria's Defence Headquarters spokesman Chris Olukolade dismissed
Amnesty's report as baseless and said it was aimed at tarring the
reputation of the country's authorities.
"The report is just a collation of the rumors, views and allegations
of their fellow detractors and local operatives," he said.
[to top of second column]
Saudi Arabia's grand mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh said Boko
Haram had been "misguided" and should be "shown their wrong path and
be made to reject it."
His remarks came as religious leaders in
the Muslim world, who often do not comment on militant violence,
joined in denouncing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau for saying
Allah had told him to sell off the kidnapped girls as forced brides.
Jonathan on Thursday thanked countries including the United States,
Britain, France and China for their support in trying to rescue the
girls. All have offered assistance. International police agency
Interpol on Friday also offered its help.
British experts including diplomats, aid workers and Ministry of
Defence officials arrived in Nigeria on Friday to advise the
government on the search.
The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa Affairs said it
will hold a hearing next Thursday on U.S. offers of assistance to
Nigeria after the abductions.
The revolt has displaced more than 250,000 people in Nigeria and
60,000 have fled the country, U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman
Adrian Edwards said in Geneva on Friday. UNHCR is "alarmed at the
recent wave of attacks on civilians", he said.
A militant attack on the market town of Gamburu early on Monday
killed at least 125 people, police said.
(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks and Chijioke Ohuocha in Abuja,
Lanre Ola in Maiduguri, Tom Miles in Geneva, Andrew Callus in Paris,
Sami Aboudi in Dubai, Patricia Zengerle in Washington and Guy
Faulconbridge in London; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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