Nigeria leader nixes visit where girls kidnapped

May 16, 2014

Amid apparent security concerns, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan canceled a trip Friday to the traumatized town where Islamist extremists abducted more than 300 schoolgirls a month ago. Angry parents said he showed no respect for their emotions.

It would have been the first reported visit by the president to the scene of an attack in the northeastern region, which has suffered for five years the increasingly deadly assaults by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria, has been accused of insensitivity to the plight of those in the Muslim-majority north, where more than 1,500 civilians have been killed this year alone.

Boko Haram insurgents abducted more than 300 students from a secondary school in Chibok on April 15. Police say 53 escaped but 276 remain in captivity.

“This is really sad to most of us because we all thought he would come, and we are all thinking that his coming would give us better hope for our children’s freedom,” said one of the parents, who had been told to gather at the burned-out remains of the school to welcome Jonathan. “But here we are being tossed up and down, people playing with our emotions.”

Two administration officials confirmed the cancellation, saying there were apparent concerns about security after news of the planned trip was leaked to the media and published on front pages of newspapers Friday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not supposed to give information to reporters.

Jonathan was expected to fly on one of his presidential jets from Abuja, the capital in central Nigeria, to Maiduguri, the capital of the state of Borno, and then go by military helicopter to the town of Chibok, 80 miles to the south.

The road from Maiduguri to Chibok passes by the Sambisa Forest, to which the girls first were taken. It is known as a hideout of the insurgents.

The militants have offered to exchange the girls for detained rebels; it that is not possible, Boko Haram has threaten otherwise to sell the captives into slavery. British officials say Jonathan has made it clear he will not negotiate a swap.

Instead of going to Chibok, Jonathan flew to Paris for a regional summit that will feature discussion of Boko Haram.

International outrage over the kidnappings has exposed his government to criticism. A U.S. official said the government was slow to adapt to the rebel threat, while a British minister said Abuja had faced huge challenges with aspects of its response.

— Associated Press

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