LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s security forces have been ordered to defend all schools in “liberated areas” of the country’s northeast to avoid further mass abductions from schools by Boko Haram extremists, the president’s office announced Wednesday.
Many in Africa’s most populous country have been outraged by the kidnapping of 110 girls in a Feb. 19 attack by Boko Haram on a school in Dapchi town. It has reminded many of the seizure of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok by the extremists in 2014.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s office said leaders of police and civil defense forces have been ordered to coordinate with the military and the governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states to “ensure deployment of personnel to all schools.”
The order by Nigeria’s interior minister “has become necessary to forestall a re-occurrence of the attack on innocent school children,” the statement said.
Some parents of students who survived the attack say their children are too frightened to return to class. The Nigerian Union of Teachers this week issued a statement demanding a “24-hour military patrol around all schools” in the region to better protect students and teachers.
Buhari, who made the fight against Boko Haram a key issue ahead of his 2015 election win, now faces growing pressure ahead of next year’s vote. His government has repeatedly declared that Boko Haram has been defeated, but the Islamic extremists continue to carry out deadly suicide attacks in the northeast, often using young women who had been abducted and indoctrinated.
It took almost a week for Nigeria’s government to confirm the 110 schoolgirls had been kidnapped. On Tuesday it released the names of all the girls seized and said it had established a panel to investigate the attack.
The military has said it withdrew from Dapchi weeks before the attack, saying the town was “relatively calm” and its troops were needed elsewhere, and claiming that security was handed over to police. Police have denied it.