Nigerian authorities received advance warnings about an impending Boko Haram raid on a boarding school in the north of the country but failed to act, Amnesty International said in a report on Friday. The attack on April 14 led to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, many of whom are still missing.
According to Amnesty, senior officers at Nigeria's military headquarters in Maiduguri, as well as the Borno State Governor, were aware of the assault four hours before it started but no reinforcements were sent to the town. "Poor resources" and "a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped armed groups" were behind the indecision, Amnesty said.
"There's a lot of frustration, exhaustion and fatigue among officers and [troops] based in the hotspots … many soldiers are afraid to go to the battle fronts," a senior officer in the armed forces told Amnesty.
Armed militants abducted more than 200 students from a boarding school in the town of Chibok on April 14, taking them into the remote Sambisa forest. While about 50 were able to escape, hundreds are still missing.
Abubaker Shekau, the leader of the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the abductions in a video message on Monday. The militant group is known for its attacks on schools, mosques, churches and Nigerian authorities.
Nigeria's government has faced fierce criticism over its response to the kidnappings, with many accusing authorities of not doing enough to bring back the missing girls.
"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," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's Africa Director. "It amounts to a gross dereliction of Nigeria's duty to protect civilians, who remain sitting ducks for such attacks."
Also on Friday, Nigerian authorities named the 53 girls who were kidnapped but managed to escape the Boko Haram militants, despite fears that revealing their identities would subject the girls to stigma. According to the Associated Press, the Borno State government did not say why it decided to release their identities.
The BBC notes that Nigerian authorities have not yet responded to the Amnesty report.