MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – The number of kidnapped schoolgirls missing in Nigeria has risen to 276, up by more than 30 from a previous estimate, police said, adding that the actual number abducted by Islamic extremists on April 14 was more than 300.
Police Commissioner Tanko Lawan said the number of girls and young women who have escaped also has risen, to 53.
He told a news conference Thursday night in Maiduguri, the northeastern capital of Borno state, that the figures keep increasing because students from other schools were brought into one school for final exams last month after all schools in Borno state were shut because of attacks by Islamic extremists. Communications are difficult, with the military often cutting cellphone service under a state of emergency and travel made dangerous on roads frequently attacked by the militants.
Hundreds of women protested in at least three cities this week to express their outrage that the girls have not been found.
Two bombings in three weeks have also hit the nation’s capital, Abuja.
Reports this week indicated some have been forced into “marriage” with their extremist abductors, who paid a nominal bride price equivalent to $12. Other reports that also could not be verified said some have been taken across borders, to Chad, Cameroon and to an island in Lake Chad. The reports come from parents and legislators who are in touch with villagers who have seen the girls with their abductors.
Girls who have escaped say their captors identified themselves as fighters in the Boko Haram terrorist network, though the extremists have not claimed responsibility for the abductions.