ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigeria wrapped up its inquiry into the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by militants on Friday with little progress to show, reporting almost none had been freed after the initial kidnapping some girls escaped from.
Submitting the final report, Brigadier General Ibrahim Sabo said 219 girls remained at large, a total virtually unchanged since Boko Haram militants stormed their secondary school in northeast Borno state on April 14 to kidnap them.
A total of 57 girls, almost all of whom escaped shortly after the abduction, have been reunited with their families, he added. The kidnapping of the teenage girls taking exams in Chibok village sparked global outrage for its sheer barbarity.
The government’s failure to rescue the girls, or protect them before their abduction, has become a political liability for President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of elections next year.
“We are ... pained that the schoolgirls remain in captivity,” Sabo said in a statement. “The hostage situation that this represents is obviously delicate.”
The Chibok kidnapping and other increasingly bloody attacks by Boko Haram have underscored Abuja’s inability to stamp out the militant group, which aims to carve out a radical Islamist state in the mostly Muslim north.
In what could raise the ire of Jonathan’s critics, Sabo recommended the findings of the fact-finding group appointed by the president remain confidential for national security reasons.
Sabo also seemed to try to deflect expected criticism from the government.
“For the Chibok schoolgirls, little will be achieved through finger-pointing,” he said in his statement.
“Getting the girls out, and safely, too, is by far more important than the publicity generated by the blame game that has tended to becloud the issue.”
The attack shocked Nigerians, even as they have grown used to hearing about atrocities in an increasingly bloody five-year-old Islamist insurgency in the north.
From being a religious movement opposed to Western culture - Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin” in the northern Hausa language - the sect has emerged as a well-armed insurrection with a growing thirst for blood.
This week at least 14 people, including small children, died when a bomb tore through a venue where fans had gathered to watch a World Cup soccer match.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Islamic militants are widely suspected.
Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Tom Heneghan