The American officials said that the joint forces of the USA and African countries have found the whereabouts of the clusters of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram sect two years ago.
However, the rescue operations have not been carried out because of fears that any succeeding battle with the insurgents would put the hostages at risk, or provoke some form of revenge against captives still being held in other areas.
According to the officials, a combination of local intelligence, intercepted communications and drone footage had been used to find groups of the girls this month.
At the same time, they claimed that efforts to free the girls have not been left. The officials said that a key concern is the hundreds of other women and girls who are also held by Boko Haram, captives who are often raped, forced into marriages with their abductors, and sometimes killed.
The retired head of the United States military Africa Command Gen. Carter F. Ham said: “You’re not just looking for 200 girls. There are many, many others who have been taken hostage, and more thousands killed, and two and a half million people displaced.”
The intelligence reports show that the girls have been separated into smaller groups.
Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the head of the military’s Africa Command, added that the Chibok girls have been “moved to some very isolated places.” He continued that locating them is “not an exact science.”
“So the challenge is, how do you find lots of people held hostage in different places? That’s really complex and it stretches the capability of local forces,” General Ham added.
About 200 American drone operators worked with local troops to collect intelligence on Boko Haram and the location of its many captives.
In the related development, there are reports that the insurgents are increasingly using its captives as suicide attackers.
Col. Badjeck Didier, a spokesperson for Cameroon’s Defense Ministry, said recently that he worried that some of the Chibok girls may have become suicide bombers.
He said: “When we see the kamikaze bombers, they have the same age — 14-15 years — as the Chibok girls. A recent video released by Boko Haram that purported to show proof of life of a number of the Chibok girls — something the Nigerian government had demanded as a condition of negotiations — was a sign that the group wants to negotiate.”
These women did not chose to become suicide bombers, but after two years of incarceration and bearing children of these men, some of them had to buy in out of personal survival,” Sanderson said.
“I do think that Boko Haram has considered using these girls to kill their rescuers. And that would cause people to have spasms over what that symbolism meant,” added Tom M. Sanderson, director of the transnational threats project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
On her own part, Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations said that the Special Operations forces sent by President Obama were doing “surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance” and would continue their efforts to locate the Chibok girls.
I want to assure the parents of the Chibok girls and the parents of any children gone missing that, indeed, the United States is in this for the long haul,” she said.
The video, obtained by CNN, showed 15 missing girls in robes identifying themselves.
It is believed to have been made on December 25 last year during negotiations between the government and parties claiming to represent Boko Haram.
Two of the three women to whom the footage was shown identified their daughters; a third was upset that it did not show her daughter.
The abduction of the 276 girls caused the global social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls, involving US first lady Michelle Obama.
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the sect, shortly after the kidnap said the girls had converted to Islam and he threatened to force them into marriage with his fighters or sell them into slavery.