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276 abducted schoolgirls still missing US offers to help Nigeria

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, May 2, (Agencies): 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 cell phone service under a state of emergency and travel made dangerous on roads frequently attacked by the militants. “The students were drawn from schools in Izge, Lassa, Ashigashiya and Warabe A. and that is why, after the unfortunate incident, there were various numbers flying around as to the actual number of girls that were taken away,” Lawan said. 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. Meanwhile, the United States said on Thursday it had offered to help Nigeria in its search for around 200 girls abducted by Islamist militants from a school in the northeast of the West African country. “We have been engaged with the Nigerian government in discussions on what we might do to help support their efforts to find and free these young women,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a daily briefing. “We will continue to have those discussions and help in any way we can.” Gunmen suspected to be from the radical Islamist movement Boko Haram on April 14 stormed an all-girls secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, packed the teenagers onto trucks and disappeared into a remote area along the border with Cameroon. The kidnapping occurred the same day a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of the capital, Abuja, and it marked the first attack on the capital in two years.

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