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There is a rev up in the moves to rescue abducted pupils of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State.
The military said on Wednesday it is determined to get the boys out “whichever way.”
Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu has deployed a Special Squad in the state.
Governor Aminu Masari said there is an ongoing negotiation with the abductors through Miyetti Allah – a Fulani group.
Defence Headquarters spokesman Maj.-Gen. John Eneche told reporters that the military was not part of any form of negotiation with the abductors.
He said although the military acknowledged the right of the Aminu Masari government to “negotiate,” it was working on its own strategy to ensure the safe rescue of the remaining 316 schoolboys “whichever way.”
Seventeen of the 313 students abducted by bandits last weekend have returned from the forest where they were taken
The governor told Channels Television last night that the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) was carrying out the negotiation on behalf of his administration.
He added however, that the government would not pay cash to the kidnappers.
He said he was working with the security agencies to ensure that no attempt was made to change the location of the children by the bandits.
He said: “The leadership of MACBAN is the one that we are talking with. The Commissioner of Police and Special Adviser on Security are discussing with the leaders of Miyetti Allah, who are also discussing with those that abducted the children.
“This is the way we are talking to them. I am waiting for the feedback on their discussion. We are doing all we could to get the children back but what we will not do is to negotiate money with the bandits.
“We should be more proactive with the information given to the security agencies. Everybody should be more involved by providing reliable information and not misleading information that would endanger the lives of the security operatives.
“I am a Chief Security Officer without security apparatus. No governor is a true chief security officer but that is our Constitution. We should do something about it but right now I have over 300 students to look for. I am concerned, more concerned than everyone else except perhaps the parents. I am accountable here and hereafter.
“It is the responsibility of the security agencies to do what they are supposed to under the constitution of the Federal Republic oF Nigeria. I am quite aware of my responsibility and I will support these security agencies till they get each and every one of the children. I am the leader; I am not shying away from my responsibilities.”
He said none of the missing students is dead, quashing fears about the safety of the boys.
“The children are alive and we have not received any report that anyone had fallen sick. So we assume that all is well with the children. I was in touch with at least two of the students that escaped on Saturday. I was also in touch on Monday with two that came back.”
Masari also refuted the claim by the Boko Haram that its members abducted the pupils, saying that “from the information available to us, this was conducted, executed by local bandits that are known to all of us.”
He added: “These are bandits that are roaming the forests of Zamfara and parts of Kaduna State. So far, this is the information we have. Whatever role any other terrorist group must have played, we are yet to confirm it.
“But with regards to this abduction, we have not seen any direct involvement of Boko Haram or ISWAP.”
The Coordinator, Defence Media Operation, while giving an update on the military operations across the country said: “I don’t know from history where the military or the armed forces go into negotiations when it comes to ransom and I don’t have any record.
“Nothing is connecting the armed forces with negotiation. If the governor believes in that as a father, he is seeing it in a larger perceptive.
“We are going on with our operations, and we don’t step down our kinetic operations for any reason at all. There is nowhere in the world where you stop your kinetic operation; it is a total package because purported negotiations are going on. It is not done. We will rescue the school children whichever way, that’s what I can assure you.”
Gen. Enenche restated that none of the abducted boys was dead.
He said: “Nobody is dead; we have not received anything that anybody is dead from the information that we have monitoring the situation and then the troops are on guard as it were.
“They have started patrolling the whole of that area to ensure that they are intact and that we rescue them alive.”
He also explained why troops could not foil the kidnapping of the students despite arriving the scene during the attack.
He said the troops could not engage the bandits in gun fuel because the bandits used the students as body shields.
“When the troops came, it was not in the best interest of saving lives to start exchanging direct fire, of course firing to scare the bandits was done but not direct fire because the children were being used as human shields.
“What is the end objective when you come to rescue and end up killing those you came to rescue; it will amount to nothing. Of course in the hours of darkness, while that ensued they removed the children.”
Gen. Enenche also dismissed the reported claim by the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, that the schoolchildren were abducted by his men.
He said the claim was the usual propaganda of the terrorist group, adding that the military had continued to record successes against insurgents in the Northeast and bandits in the Northwest.