Parents In Nigeria Asking How Boko Haram Succeeded Again In Kidnapping Schoolgirls
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
In Nigeria, distraught families want to talk to their president to press him to help find the scores of girls abducted from school three weeks ago. This comes four years after the kidnapping of hundreds of girls at another school in Nigeria. And people are asking how suspected Boko Haram gunmen have again succeeded in a mass kidnapping of girls from their dorms. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been speaking to the father of one of the girls taken last month.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: (Foreign language spoken).
QUIST-ARCTON: (Foreign language spoken).
Makinta Liman is a tall, lean man wearing a very troubled look. At his house in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, he feels helpless. Where, he laments, is his 19-year-old daughter, Fatima Makinta Liman? She was one of the 110 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram suspects from their school in Dapchi, a remote area of Nigeria's northeast last month.
MAKINTA LIMAN: We miss her on Monday. The Boko Haram attack the school. So the eldest - as she's looking for her younger sisters, then they capture her and take her and go.
QUIST-ARCTON: Liman had four daughters at Dapchi Girls boarding school when the insurgents stormed their dorms on the night of Monday, February 19. As their father explains, the younger three girls ranging in age from 10 to 15, Hadiza, Fatima Jr. and Aisha, escaped, but their older sister who was apparently searching for her siblings did not.
LIMAN: They run to the bush - the other three.
QUIST-ARCTON: Fatima's family is heartbroken. Her sisters and brothers, her father, grandmother and aunt all are gathered in the modest family home about an hour and a half's drive away from the school in Dapchi. When we visit, everyone is praying fervently. Four sisters, their grandmother and aunt are sitting on carpets in the parlor with prayer beads, pain etched on their faces. Fatima is in her final year of high school. Her father and aunt lead us into the teen's bedroom with its huge, high four-poster bed and pink trimmings, eyes searching in vain. Makinta Liman looks devastated.
LIMAN: Anytime when I enter - no, no, no, no, no - nobody. It's worse. I can't compare. It's very hot. It's very hot.
QUIST-ARCTON: You've never felt such pain in your life.
LIMAN: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes, I'm just praying to God almighty to bring her back to us.
QUIST-ARCTON: The families whose daughters have been seized by the terror network in northeast Nigeria want to talk to President Muhammadu Buhari. He issued a statement Monday which, in an apparent change of tack, says the Government is not pursuing a military offensive but hopes to negotiate the release of the schoolgirls with their kidnappers. Fatima Makinta Liman's father talks proudly about his 19-year-old, saying she's a dutiful and hardworking daughter.
LIMAN: She is very beautiful. She loves school. My message to Fatima - I miss her. I love her. I'm always - I'm crying about her. All the family member - we are missing her, and we are always praying on her - just praying.
QUIST-ARCTON: To those who have abducted the girls, the father says...
LIMAN: We are begging them for the sake of God almighty. Return back our daughters for us. We are begging them - please, please and please. That what we need from them.
QUIST-ARCTON: And Makinta Liman's message to President Buhari...
LIMAN: He has to put more effort to the security agencies to work hard to bring back or girls for us. I know that my daughter will come back. I have hope.
QUIST-ARCTON: The hope of a desperate father and other family members for the return of Fatima and all the missing Dapchi schoolgirls. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Damaturu, northeast Nigeria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.