Nigeria's Missing Girls: Why Boko Haram Has The Upper Hand

It's believed Boko Haram has taken the girls to its hideout in Sambisa Forest. The group knows that terrain better than local law enforcement does.
Posted at 4:27 PM, May 07, 2014

​Nigeria is now offering a hefty reward for any information leading to the missing schoolgirls who disappeared three weeks ago. (Via Flickr / Michael Fleshman

But even if Nigeria can figure out where they are, how long will it be before they're rescued? Some analysts say it could take years, if not longer.  

You might remember Joseph Kony, the Ugandan rebel leader and subject of this viral video. In 1996, his Lord's Resistance Army abducted 139 schoolgirls from their school in Uganda. (Via Invisible Children

Despite the international attention the kidnappings drew, the Ugandan military was no match for  Kony's army. It was another 13 years before the last of the girls returned to Uganda. (Via NTV)  

This time around, African affairs analyst Jacob  Zenn tells the BBC it could take Nigeria just as long: "Boko Haram is likely using the girls as human shields and keeping them in their camps, which will prevent the Nigerian air force from bombing those camps."

It's believed the group is holding the girls somewhere in Chibok, a town in the country's sparsely populated northeast. (Via Google

The remote and dense forests there have become a refuge for Boko Haram because the group knows the terrain better than local law enforcement. (Via Silverbird Television

A writer for The Nation describes the forest as having "extremely thick areas where human skins cannot penetrate without being hurt by thorns." Boko Haram insurgents, he says, are the "masters of the savannah."

​By some accounts, the Nigerian army is mobilized to raid the Sambisa Forest — but the fear is, confronting the group in its forest hideout might further endanger the girls.

JONATHAN MILLER, CHANNEL 4 CORRESPONDENT: "The intermediary believes it could, but any attempt by the Nigerian military to intervene will result in the deaths of these girls."

That's what happened two years ago, when Nigerian jihadist militants kidnapped two British and Italian contract workers. The kidnappers posted this video warning the men would be killed if the state intervened. (Via ITN

Nigerian and British armed forces did launch a rescue operation, and the two workers were murdered. (Via The Guardian

According to CNN, parents are afraid the same could happen to their girls. That's why many have chosen not to talk to the media for "fear their daughters may be singled out for reprisals."

Another issue hampering the search: The missing schoolgirls are thought to have been split up by now into separate groups, making their location even harder to pinpoint.  

Which would seem to leave the option of negotiating with Boko Haram, but experts say that's nearly impossible to do. (Via Sahara TV

As a writer for The Washington Post explains: "[Boko Haram's] zeal and disorganized tactical structure make dialogue with the government difficult. ... But, as is the case for insurgencies elsewhere, the efforts of local interlocutors … may be the best hope for a peaceful resolution."

In the meantime, the group continues to terrorize the nation. One government official reported 150 deaths at the hands of the group during a Boko Haram assault on a village in Nigeria's Borno State earlier this week.