85 school girls still missing, 24 escape

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Eighty-five of the abducted 129 school girls in Chibok, Borno State are still missing, an education official said, on the heels of the escape of 24 girls from the Sambisa Forest.

“So far, we give thanks to God, for what we now have is 44 girls” who have escaped, the Borno state education commissioner, Musa Inuwo Kubo told The Associated Press by telephone Friday night.

He said some of the latest escapees were found Wednesday nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) away from their school.

Extremists have been attacking schools and slaughtering hundreds of students in the past year. In recent months they have begun kidnapping students, who they use as cooks, sex slaves and porters.

But this week’s mass abduction is unprecedented. The attackers also burned down many houses in the town.

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The extremists have been on a rampage this week that started with a massive bombing attack on a busy bus station at rush hour on Monday in Abuja, the capital in the center of the country, that killed at least 75 people. Twenty others were killed in attacks on two villages. And a soldier and police officer guarding the school in Chibok also were killed.

Nigeria’s military has remained inexplicably absent from Chibok, Kubo said, describing residents’ “displeasure” that no security forces have come to secure the area since the attack.

Angry parents and all able-bodied men from the town have taken to the Sambisa Forest to try to find the students despite the dangers of confronting extremists.

The Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, claimed in a statement Wednesday that all but eight of the 129 abducted students had been freed by security forces. But he retracted that statement on Thursday.