Nigeria's military knows the whereabouts of the more than 200 girls abducted by Boko Haram but has ruled out using force to rescue them, the country's state news agency quoted Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh as saying on Monday.
"The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you," Badeh was quoted as saying. "But where they are held, can we go there with force? We can't kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."
Most Nigerian officials think any raid to rescue them would be fraught with danger and probably not worth the risk that the girls would be killed by their captors.
Since the girls were captured in April, at least 470 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram, which says it is fighting to establish an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria.
The BBC also reported on Monday that a deal was close to being agreed to rescue the girls in exchange for Boko Haram prisoners – a demand the group had made public – but that it was called off at the last minute.
Over the weekend, Senate President David Mark, the country's number three, ruled out doing a deal with Boko Haram.
"This government cannot negotiate with criminals and ... will not exchange people for criminals. A criminal will be treated like a criminal," he was quoted by local media as saying.
Nigeria, which until recently had been reluctant to seek help to combat Boko Haram, requested last week that the group, whose name roughly translates to "Western education is sinful,” be sanctioned. The insurgents have demanded the release of detained Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the girls – a swap officials said the government will not consider.
A United Nations Security Council committee blacklisted the Nigerian group Boko Haram as an Al-Qaeda-linked group “responsible for a series of major terrorist attacks” last Thursday, subjecting the organization to targeted financial sanctions and an arms embargo.
The move made by the U.N. Security Council Committee on Al-Qaeda Sanctions comes over a month after the group claimed credit for the abduction of about 300 schoolgirls from school in northeastern Nigeria
Separately on Monday, gunmen killed four Nigerian soldiers on Monday in an ambush on a military patrol in central Plateau state, about 110 miles southeast of Jos, a local government official said.
Boko Haram has made inroads into Plateau state in the past month, setting off a bomb in Jos last Tuesday that killed 118 people.
Bendel Nancwat, head of the local council that administers the village of Gida Bua, where the attack happened, said it was not known if the assailants were Boko Haram or just bandits.
A spokesman for the Special Task Force – made up of military and police personnel meant to keep the peace in Plateau state – Captain Ikedichi Iweha, confirmed the incident but declined to give details ahead of an investigation.
Al Jazeera and wire services