Nigeria's military had advance warning of the attack by armed group Boko Haram that led to the kidnapping of more than 276 schoolgirls — but military officials failed to take immediate action, Amnesty International said Friday.
The girls were kidnapped on April 14 from their dormitories at a secondary school in Chibok, a city in the northern Nigerian state of Borno. On Monday, the leader of Boko Haram, an armed group that seeks to create an Islamic fundamentalist state in Nigeria’s north, claimed responsibility for the attack and said he would sell the girls as slaves.
"Damning testimonies gathered by Amnesty International reveal that Nigerian security forces failed to act on advance warnings about Boko Haram's armed raid on the state-run boarding school in Chibok, which led to the abduction," the rights group said in a statement Friday.
Amnesty said it had verified the information about the abduction with "credible sources.”
"The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram's impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,” Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's Africa director, said in a news release.
Two local government officials in Chibok also confirmed to Al Jazeera that military officials had nearly two hours’ notice of the Boko Haram attack.
The military could not assemble the troops needed to suppress the attack, "due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped" insurgent group, Amnesty said.
The 17 army troops based in Chibok were overpowered by the attackers and had to retreat, according to Amnesty.
The kidnappings have sparked global outrage and a “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, launched with the aim of pressuring Nigerian authorities to take action against Boko Haram.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Thursday that he believed the kidnapped girls are still in Nigeria and have not been moved to Cameroon as some have speculated.
On Tuesday, the U.S. government announced it would assist the Nigerian government in rescuing the girls, sending military and law enforcement personnel skilled in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, information sharing and victim assistance, as well as officials with expertise in other areas, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney.
U.S. armed forces were not being sent, Carney said.
The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said Thursday that it had sent a team of experts to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to work with the U.S. team.
Al Jazeera and wire services