MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Authorities in Nigeria’s northeast Borno state denied on Thursday a statement by the armed forces which had said most of the more than 100 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels had been freed in a military rescue operation.
“As I am talking to you now, only 14 of the students have returned,” an aide to Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima told Reuters, asking not to be named.
The assertion directly contradicted a statement issued late on Wednesday by national armed forces spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade in which he said only eight of the students were still missing after the military operation.
The Borno governor’s aide said the 14 girls found safe so far “escaped” and were not rescued.
An uncle of two of the teenagers who were snatched on Monday by Islamist Boko Haram militants from the government secondary school at Chibok in Borno state said the search was still going on.
“Two of my nieces, Laraba and Hauwa, are still missing, ... twenty other girls from our village are missing,” Isaiah Rabo told Reuters by phone from Chibok. His daughter was among those who escaped from the abductors.
There was no immediate explanation for the contradictory versions regarding the mass abduction of the schoolgirls aged between 15 and 18, which has shocked Nigeria.
Monday’s raid on the Chibok school showed how the five-year-old Boko Haram insurgency has brought lawlessness to swathes of the arid, poor northeast, killing hundreds of people in recent months.
It occurred the same day a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of the capital Abuja, stirring fears of violence spreading from the north of Africa’s No. 1 oil producer and most populous nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan was meeting his National Security Council on Thursday to review the security situation.
Reporting by Lanre Ola and Isaac Abrak; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Ed Cropley