ABUJA – Nigeria’s military was warned of an attack on a school in which more than 200 girls were abducted by Boko Haram Islamists but failed to act for nearly five hours, Amnesty International said Friday.
The allegation, which the military has denied, came as U.S., British and French experts arrived on the ground to help trace the schoolgirls and Nigeria said a round-the-clock search was under way.
At least 10 army search teams were trying to track down the girls in the remote far northeast, border guards were on high alert and the air force had so far flown at least 250 sorties.
Nigeria is keen to demonstrate that it is finally acting to trace the 223 girls still missing. For three weeks, the teenagers’ parents and families have accused the authorities of inaction and indifference.
Amnesty’s claims are likely to heap further pressure on Nigeria’s embattled government and military.
Amnesty said that from 7 p.m. on April 14, military commanders had repeated warnings about an impending raid in Chibok.
Two senior military officers said enough troops could not be found to head to the town to stave off the attack, as soldiers were reluctant to face guerilla fighters who were better equipped.
Up to 200 armed Boko Haram fighters eventually abducted 276 girls at about 11:45 p.m. after fighting a small number of police and soldiers stationed in the town.
Amnesty’s Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay, described the situation as a “gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians,” adding that people remained “sitting ducks” for future attacks.