A report by the U.K Sunday Times is alleging that the US and British governments knew where at least 80 of the Nigerian girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram sect where but failed to launch a rescue mission.
The former British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Andrew Pocock, told the Sunday Times that a large group of the missing girls were spotted by British and American surveillance officials shortly after their disappearance on April 14, 2014, but experts felt nothing could be done.
‘Too High Risk’
Dr Pocock was quoted by the Sunday Times as saying that Western governments felt ‘powerless’ to help, as any rescue attempt would have been too high risk – with the Boko Haram terrorists using the girls as human shield.
He said: “A couple of months after the kidnapping, fly-bys and an American eye in the sky spotted a group of up to 80 girls in a particular spot in the Sambisa forest, around a very large tree, called locally the Tree of Life, along with evidence of vehicular movement and a large encampment”.
He told Sunday Times that the girls were there for at least four weeks but authorities were ‘powerless’ to intervene – and the Nigerian government did not ask for help anyway.
“A land-based attack would have been seen coming miles away and the girls killed, an air-based rescue, such as flying in helicopters or Hercules, would have required large numbers and meant a significant risk to the rescuers and even more so to the girls.’
“You might have rescued a few but many would have been killed. My personal fear was always about the girls not in that encampment – 80 were there, but 250 were taken, so the bulk were not there. What would have happened to them? You were damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” he added.
He further told the Sunday Times Magazine that the information was passed to the Nigerian government but it made no request for help.
Terrorists stormed a secondary boarding school in the remote town of Chibok in Borno state, northern Nigeria in April 14, 2014, and seized over 200 girls who were preparing for their final-year exams.
Although 57 of the girls managed to escape the rest have remained missing and have not been heard from or seen since.
The abduction triggered solidarity protests in different countries with protesters carrying placards mostly written, “Bring Back Our Girls”.
In different intervals, top military officials said they were aware of the girls’ location, but could not launch an attack on the terrorists, fearing it could lead to civilian casualties.