Nigerian security forces received advanced warnings four hours before hundreds of girls were kidnapped from a state-run boarding school, but failed to take the necessary steps to stop it, Amnesty International said in a report released Friday.
Two Nigerian military commands in Maiduguri and Damboa, towns in Nigeria’s northern Borno state, received repeated warnings from security and local officials between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 14 that the Islamist group Boko Haram planned to attack the town of Chibok, where the school was located, according to Amnesty’s sources. However, security forces chose not to send reinforcements to the town, reportedly due to limited resources and soldiers’ fears of fighting the better equipped insurgents, the report said.
Instead, Chibok’s 17-man strong security contingent was left alone to protect the town, along with some police. Amnesty said the group “attempted to repel the Boko Haram assault but were overpowered and forced to retreat.” Boko Haram gunmen then succeeded in kidnapping more than 240 schoolgirls.
“There’s a lot of frustration, exhaustion, and fatigue among officers and [troops] based in the hot spots … many soldiers are afraid to go to the battle fronts,” a senior Nigerian military official told Amnesty.
Amnesty’s sources said that even the Borno state governor and senior military commanders based in Maiduguri were contacted and warned of the assault by local officials and civilian patrols, known as vigilantes.
One local official told Amnesty: “At around 10:00 p.m. on April 14, I called [several] security officers to inform them about earlier information I had received from the vigilantes in Gagilam village. They had told us that strange people had arrived in their village that evening on motorbikes and they said they were heading to Chibok. I made several other calls, including to Maiduguri. I was promised by the security people that reinforcement were on their way.”
Amnesty would not disclose their sources due to security concerns; however, they said that their information was based on interviews with those on ground and verified by multiple sources.
Cristina Finch of Amnesty criticized both the Nigerian government and Boko Haram.
“The problem has been that the Nigerian government did not take enough action,” Finch told BuzzFeed. “There is a lot of information that has not been able to be gathered through the Nigerian government.” She added, “I am very worried about what is happening to those girls on a day-to-day basis.”
You can read the full report here.