Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Military Plans To Seek US Army's Assistance In Rescuing 333 Kidnapped School Pupils

The military is considering many options, including seeking external help, to rescue over 300 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) Kankara, Katsina State.

A top military officer confided in THISDAY yesterday that one of the options being considered is for the federal government to seek assistance from the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to launch a rescue bid leveraging on its sophisticated technology for such operation.

Besides, the military also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it masterminded the abduction of the pupils last Friday.

It described the claim of the terror organisation, made yesterday by its acclaimed leader, Mr. Abubakar Shekau, as mere propaganda.

Amidst efforts to rescue the pupils, Katsina State Governor, Hon. Aminu Masari, said 17 pupils, out of the 333 schoolboys he had earlier said could not be accounted for had escaped from their captors.

Another report, however, claimed that two of the abductees might have been killed.

The Senate has, however, summoned the defence minister and security chiefs over the abduction of the Katsina pupils.

THISDAY gathered that in addition to the ongoing joint operation launched by the military and other security agencies, rescuing the pupils would be faster with help from AFRICOM.

AFRICOM had recently alerted Nigeria and other West African nations that ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terror groups were making inroads into the West African sub-region, exploiting local differences and collaborating with affiliates.

The United States Special Forces recently rescued an American kidnapped from a farm in Niger Republic in Sokoto State.

During the operations, the Special Forces killed six of the kidnappers, four from Niger and two from Nigeria.

THISDAY gathered that the federal government may be reaching out to the US government (AFRICOM) in view of its recent intelligence alert on the movement of terror groups to the sub-region.

“At many levels, strategic levels there is a flurry of activities to rescue the children safely and keep the peace of the nation,” the source added.

The source said the military was looking at many options irrespective of ongoing negotiations with the kidnappers.

The source also dismissed claims by Boko Haram that it staged the kidnap of the Katsina students as propaganda.

He said: “We have our constitutional mandate, which we are pursuing. We are not discouraging other options, be it negotiations or any other thing.

“We are focused on the rescue of the children, having established location. The issue of collateral damage is also being looked at. The safety of the children is paramount.”

On the claim by Boko Haram that it kidnapped the pupils, the source, who asked not to be named, said: “It is in their character to make such bogus claims in situations like this. It is part of their propaganda. Anything that happens in Nigeria is linked to Boko Haram.

“The fact that they have collaborators is not in doubt but this is propaganda.”

Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Abduction

Earlier, the terror group, in an audio message released yesterday, had said it was behind last week’s kidnapping of hundreds of schoolboys in Katsina State.

So far, more than 300 pupils are unaccounted for, but others managed to escape.

The government had previously blamed “bandits” for the attack.

In a four-minute audio message trending on social media, the leader of the deadly Islamic sect, Mr. Abubakar Shekau, claimed his members kidnapped the schoolboys because Western education is against the tenets of Islam.

In the Arabic audio message he translated in Hausa, Shekau said: “What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his Holy Prophet.

“They are also not teaching what Allah and his Holy Prophet commanded. They are rather destructing Islam. It may be subtly, but Allah the Lord of the Skies and Earths knows whatever is hidden.

“In a nutshell, we are behind what happened in Katsina. The speaker is Abubakar Shekau, leader of Jama’atu Ahlussunna Lid-Da’awati wal Jihad.”

But Shekau did not give details of the attack, the number of the abducted schoolboys or mentioned entering into negotiation with the Katsina State Government

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