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Nigeria’s minister of defense has once again warned that it may take years to find all the Chibok girls kidnapped by the dreaded militant group Boko Haram.
Speaking to VOA’s Hausa service, General Mansur Dan Ali said the military is searching Boko Haram’s hideouts in the Sambisa Forest, a vast area covering parts of three states in northeastern Nigeria.
He noted that it took a long time for the United States to find 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
“It took the U.S. up to seven, eight, up to 10 years before they could get to bin Laden,” he said. “We are continuing our campaigning in the Sambisa Forest in all its nooks and corners.”
Ali spoke to VOA as activists mark the third anniversary of the girls’ abductions. Boko Haram kidnapped 276 students from a secondary school in the northeastern town of Chibok on April 13, 2014. There are 195 girls still missing.
In 2014, Boko Haram seized control of much of northeastern Nigeria but has been driven back by a Nigerian-led, multinational military campaign.
Despite the success, the government’s inability to find the girls or determine their fate is overshadowing the military victory.
Sheikh Nuru Khalid, a member of the influential Interfaith group that tries to ensure peace between Nigerian Muslims and Christians, says failure to find the girls would translate into a victory for Boko Haram.
“We can never allow the terrorists to win the war. If they got [away] free with those girls, then they have relatively won the war,” he said.
Human rights lawyer Abdu Bulama Bukar told VOA Hausa that the government needs to address the psychological trauma suffered by the families of the missing girls and other victims of Boko Haram brutality.
“Married women have been made single again; kids have been orphaned; homeowners are without shelter; Nigerians have been turned into refugees in their own homeland,” he said.