TIME Nigeria

Nigerian Defense Chief: We Know Where the Kidnapped Girls Are

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Alex Badeh
Nigeria defence chief Air Marshal Alex Badeh, center, speaks during a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped schoolgirls on May 26, 2014, in the Nigerian capital, Abuja Gbenga Olamikan—AP

Nigeria's defense chief Alex Badeh says the military knows where the girls are but cannot use force to free them

The Nigerian military has located the schoolgirls who were abducted by Islamist extremists but cannot free them by force, the country’s defense chief said Monday.

Air Marshal Alex Badeh told demonstrators that the government intends to rescue the girls but needs to proceed carefully. “We can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back,” he said, cautioning against the repercussions of acting too aggressively, too soon.

Badeh would not disclose the exact location where they believe the girls are being held.

In the past month, the country’s military has come under extreme criticism, both internationally and at home, for failing to find the nearly 300 girls who were abducted from a school six weeks ago by terrorist organization Boko Haram, whose leader recently boasted, “I will sell them in the market.”

President Goodluck Jonathan was forced to accept international help in the search this month after several weeks of making no publicized effort to find the children. He even lied to families and the international community by saying most of the girls had been returned.

International outrage grew as the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls spread on Twitter almost a full two weeks after the abduction. This month, Britain, France, Israel and several other countries have donated experts in surveillance and hostage negotiations to the search. American planes have been flying over the regions seeking out the girls.

[AP]

TIME World

Memorial Day, Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day: How 9 Other Countries Remember Their Fallen Troops

Fields Of Remembrance Poppies Ahead of Sunday's Service
Crosses with Remembrance Poppies, worn during Remembrance Day in Britain. Cate Gillon—Getty Images

As America observes Memorial Day, here’s how other countries around the world honor their fallen.

Americans remember the men and women of its armed forces who have died in service every year on Memorial Day, always the last Monday in May. Heralding the beginning of summer in the U.S., Memorial Day is an official national holiday that has its roots in the memorials for fallen soldiers in after the American Civil War, still the country’s deadliest conflict.

In other countries around the world, Memorial Day-style observances are rooted in an even deadlier fight — The First World War. World War I, which began a hundred years ago and became one of the deadliest conflicts in history, spawned national memorials throughout the British Commonwealth and elsewhere (in the U.S., the end of the war is commemorated with Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day). In still other countries, a memorial holiday remembers the war dead of more recent conflicts.

Here’s how countries around the world honor their fallen:

Britain

The United Kingdom observes Remembrance Sunday with ceremonies across the country on the Sunday nearest to November 11, the day Germany signed the armistice ending World War I hostilities. Today, the day memorializes fallen British soldiers in all conflicts since the Great War. On November 11 at 11 a.m.—the time of the signing of the armistice—the UK holds a two-minute silence. “Remembrance poppies” are worn and displayed as per a tradition inspired by the Canadian poet John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields:”

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

South Korea

South Koreans observe Memorial Day on June 6, the same month that the Korean War began, to honor servicemen and civilians who have died for their country. The nation holds a one-minute silence at 10 a.m.

France

Armistice Day in France is solemnly observed on Nov. 11 with ceremonies, special church services and poppy adornments. In recent years, the holiday has come to recognize all of the country’s war dead in addition to the 1.4 million people killed in the First World War.

New Zealand and Australia

Anzac Day on April 25 commemorates New Zealand and Australia’s servicemen and women who have died. The day, which stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps,” falls on the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, the first major military action by both forces in the First World War in a campaign that would fuel the building of a national consciousness in both countries.

Turkey

Turkey observes Martyrs’ Day on March 18, the anniversary of a major victory against the Allied Powers during the Gallipoli Campaign. The day is used today to commemorate Turks who have died for the country.

Nigeria

Nigeria formerly observed Armed Forces Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 as a member of the commonwealth. But it has since moved the date to Jan. 15, 1970 to commemorate the end of the country’s civil war.

Italy

Italy observes National Unity and Armed Forces Day on November 4, the date Austria-Hungary surrendered to the Italians in 1918. The day is accompanied by ceremonies commemorating members of the armed forces killed in action.

Canada

Remembrance Day in Canada, a national holiday on Nov. 11, commemorates Canada’s servicemen and women. At 11 a.m., the country holds a two minute silence in memory of those who perished.

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Survivor Tells Story on Capitol Hill

Deborah Peter, 15, recounted how the Nigerian Islamist group had butchered her father and brother as Congress mulls how to counter the group that has abducted over 200 schoolgirls

Deborah Peter, a 15 year-old Nigerian, has a horrible story.

On the evening of Dec. 22, 2011, she saw her father, a Christian pastor, shot three times in the chest by three members of the Islamist radical group Boko Haram. While her father lay on the floor of his home, the men debated whether or not they should kill her brother Caleb. As her father breathed his last, they killed Caleb too. The men made the young girl lie between the corpses and she stayed there until the next morning, when a local pastor paid for her to get out of the region. That pastor was killed in 2013 — again, by Boko Haram.

Peter recounted her story before the media on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as Congress debates how to counter the radical Islamist group behind last month’s kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Peter’s home town. She held up a paper sign reading “#BringBackMySisters” for video cameras and photographers. She then attended a House panel committee to discuss the growing threat of Boko Haram, along with Department of Defense and Secretary of State officials summoned as witnesses.

“I decided to tell the world my story when the Chibok girls were taken because everyone needs to know how horrible Boko Haram is,” said Peter in her statement. “They kill innocent people who never hurt them. I want the world to understand what happened to me. I hope the kidnapped Chibok girls will take courage from my story, and know more of what God says, and know what it means to stand strong in the face of bad people.”

After giving her opening statement, Peter was asked to describe how she felt about Boko Haram after all she had been through. “It’s a hard question; I think they’re bad,” she said, before adding “I can’t judge them.”

Later, TIME asked her why. “The Bible said do not judge,” she replied.

TIME Nigeria

Search For Victims Continues After Nigeria Bomb Toll Tops 118

No one has yet claimed responsibility, but the twin explosions bear the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram. President Goodluck Jonathan meanwhile faces increased pressure as terror attacks escalate

Rescuers are still digging for victims of the two car bombs that killed at least 118 in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack, but President Goodluck Jonathan indicated he blamed the militant Islamists Boko Haram, which has killed more than 1,000 people this year, and which kidnapped more than 250 schoolgirls last month.

Tuesday’s blasts ripped through a crowded business district about half an hour apart, suggesting that they were coordinated to cause as much carnage as possible. Witnesses describe a chaotic scene suffused with the sickening smell of human flesh, with dozens of bodies strewn about, many of them emergency workers who had just arrived in response of the first explosion.

Jos sits on a fault line between Muslims and Christians, nomads and farmers, and has previously erupted in violence, most notably when several churches were bombed on Christmas Day in 2011.

Some Nigerians are blaming the government for not doing enough to prevent the latest attacks from happening.

Mark Lipdo of the Christian charity Stefanos Foundation told the Associated Press that several people had reported their suspicions about the white van that contained the first bomb, since it was parked for hours in the market place. However, authorities apparently took no action. Lipdo also says they ignored a warning issued by a man arrested with explosives strapped to his body on Saturday.

President Jonathan, who is facing increased pressure over the recent escalation of terrorist attacks, called the perpetrators “cruel and evil” and said that “this administration will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilization.”

The Jos bombings, and a separate car bomb in northern Kano that killed 24 people on Monday, took place after regional and Western leaders pledged a “total war” on the Boko Haram at a weekend summit in Paris. The latest attacks also coincide with parliament’s approval of an extension of emergency laws in three of the country’s restive north-eastern states for another six months.

TIME Nigeria

Double Car Blasts Kill More than 100 in Central Nigeria

Nigeria Explosions
Smoke rises after a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Jos, Nigeria, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Stefanos Foundation—AP

Two massive explosions tore through a crowded marketplace and bus station in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing at least 118 people and raising fears of mounting chaos in the region

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET

Two car bombs exploded near a crowded market and a bus terminal in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Tuesday, killing at least 118 people according to officials, the Associated Press reports.

No group has claimed responsibility, the BBC reports, though suspicions quickly turned on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has previously targeted the city in an extended campaign of bombings, shootings and abductions, including the April kidnapping of more than 250 schoolgirls.

The bomb blasts could be heard from miles away, AP reports, and images uploaded to Twitter showed plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Witnesses told the BBC that they saw bodies outside of the city hospital that were charred beyond recognition.

Jos, a city of half a million people some 300 miles northeast of the nation’s capital, sits on a sectarian fault line that has previously erupted into violent land disputes between Muslims and Christians, nomads and farmers.

The attack coincides with a parliamentary vote on Tuesday to extend a declared state of emergency in three north-eastern states, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, the BBC reports. The states comprise strongholds of Boko Haram, in which the government has attempted to find the abducted schoolgirls.

TIME Pregnancy

Sex, Breastfeeding and Cheesecake: What The World Searches For While Pregnant

488558775
Getty Images

Google searches reveal that Indian couples search for "sex" more than couples in any other country. Also "my husband wants me to breastfeed him."

Expectant couples all over the world are concerned about how pregnancy will affect their sex lives, but Indian couples seem especially worried. India’s top five Google searches for “How to ___ while pregnant” include “have sex,” “do sex,” and just plain “sex.”

And to confuse matters further, India’s top search (by far) for “my husband wants me to ___” is “my husband wants me to breastfeed him.” Which means that expectant couples in India are both really into sex and really into adult breastfeeding.

Men and women in the US, Britain, Australia, and South Africa also asked the internet how to have sex while pregnant, but people in Nigeria also asked how to “make love,” according to a Google Search analysis by the New York Times.

Other results showed a widespread preoccupation with avoiding stretch marks, sleeping, and losing weight.

The top search results for “Can pregnant women ___?” also varied by country. Most of the results were about eating certain foods and drinking coffee, but sex only broke the top five search terms in India, Mexico, and Nigeria.

Pregnant Brazilian women took a whole different tack. Popular searches for what pregnant women can do in Brazil include: “dye their hair,” “ride a bike,” and “fly.” Meanwhile, Google searches for Britain and Australia are dominated entirely by food queries (Can pregnant women eat mayonnaise? Cheesecake? Prawns?) while Nigeria, Singapore, Mexico and the US seem concerned with drinking coffee.

Only people in Mexico were searching for whether pregnant women can wear heels.

TIME foreign affairs

Too Many of Nigeria’s Women Are Targets—Not Just the Kidnapped Girls

Protest Against Abduction Of Nigerian Schoolgirls In Wellington
People protest against the abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls at the Civic Square on May 14, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Marty Melville—Getty Images

When Nigerian states adopt sharia laws that are in their application blatantly unfavorable to women, it creates an environment in which a terrorist group like Boko Haram believes it has a right to do as it pleases with girls without prosecution.

Boko Haram’s recent kidnappings of schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state, Nigeria, at least in its explosive aftermath, is reminiscent of the legal cases of two northern Nigerian women, Safiya Hussaini and Amina Lawal, who were sentenced to death by stoning under sharia law in 2002. Though unrelated – the stoning sentences were state-sanctioned punishments that were later overturned, and the kidnappings are a criminal act by a terrorist group – these cases illustrate how the legal climate in northern Nigeria has reached a point where girls can be seen as chattels to be taken, held, sold and, according to the latest video purportedly released by Boko Haram, indoctrinated and bartered.

Before 2000, the scope of sharia law in Nigeria was limited to civil cases. Since then, nine northern Nigerian states have adopted sharia law fully, to include criminal cases as well. A further three northern states have adopted sharia law in populations where Muslims are the majority. Sharia law, a group of Islamic moral codes and laws that determine what is and isn’t allowed for Muslims, exists side by side with civil law in these states.

The case of Hussaini, a divorced mother, was the first of its kind in Nigeria to have an international impact following the adoption of sharia law into the penal code system in some northern Nigerian states. Hussaini’s crime was that she had a child out of wedlock, with a married man. Despite being divorced, she was tried for adultery and sentenced in a sharia court in Sokoto state. In the month her case was dismissed after an appeal, Amina Lawal, another divorced mother, was sentenced for the same crime in a sharia court in Katsina state. Lawal’s case was eventually overturned in 2003 by a sharia court of appeal.

In both cases, the women won their appeals because of the grassroots efforts of activists, such as human rights lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim and Dr. Ayesha Imam of Baobab for Women’s Human Rights, both are highly accomplished women from northern Nigeria. Also in both cases, the fathers of Hussaini and Lawal’s children were not prosecuted. To prosecute men for adultery, four male eyewitnesses are required. Hussaini, after her sentencing, allegedly said that her crime was being a woman. Meanwhile, the attorney general of Sokoto, Aliyu Abubakar Sanyinna, declared the sharia court was merely following Allah’s law.

In 1999, the then governor of Zamfara state, Ahmed Sani Yerima, began a campaign to adopt sharia law in his state, and in 2000 became the first governor to formally adopt sharia when the law took effect. The federal government considers the adoption of sharia law a state right, but has criticized sharia punishments such as stonings, hand amputations and floggings. Despite the objections of members of the judiciary, the adoption of sharia law remains a state right in Nigeria.

Boko Haram’s kidnappings may not have been state-sanctioned, but its leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared that the group was following Allah’s order. Regardless of his fanatical motivation, the kidnappings were a criminal act and should have been handled as such by state authorities. But they failed to address the matter until it became a national and international embarrassment.

The facts surrounding the kidnappings are still unclear: for instance, were state authorities warned about Boko Haram’s plans? What is clear is that for a state that would have been swift to prosecute the girls for adultery and other sharia-related crimes, Borno was incredibly slow to respond when the girls became victims of a crime. Shekau’s response to the national outcry that ensued—that he would sell the girls as slaves in the market—is evidence of Boko Haram’s assumption of ownership of the girls, and it begs the question, “what gave him the right to make such a reprehensible statement?” Shekau has made known his wish to see sharia law imposed throughout Nigeria. I would suggest that when a state adopts sharia laws that are in their application blatantly unfavorable to women, it creates a legal climate in which a terrorist group like Boko Haram believes it has a right to do as it pleases with girls without prosecution.

I doubt that any level of public outrage in Nigeria would change how Boko Haram sees the girls. I say this as a Nigerian woman of Muslim parentage who writes fiction and plays to protest the adoption of sharia law in northern Nigeria, and who has often wondered if there is any value in doing that. Nigerians knew not to bother addressing Boko Haram when they began their campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls”; otherwise, their campaign slogan would have been “Release Our Girls.” If nothing else, the outrage of the rest of the world forced our president, Goodluck Jonathan, to declare his commitment to finding the girls and returning them to their families.

It should also, once again, put a spotlight on the adoption of sharia law in northern Nigeria and its dangerous trajectory. I worry that Boko Haram might confuse the negative attention they’re getting worldwide for acclaim, and trying to shame them as a group of cowardly men scared of girls might only encourage them to toughen their stance. But without the international attention the kidnappings have received, we might still be waiting for the findings of yet another committee on terrorism.

The Nigerian government has yet to catch up with acts of terrorism, and Boko Haram may well be afraid of girls and their potential to develop into educated, accomplished women. But, ultimately, Boko Haram kidnapped the schoolgirls because, in the current legal climate in northern Nigeria, they could.

Sefi Atta is the author of Everything Good Will Come, Swallow, News from Home and A Bit of Difference. Also a playwright, her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC and her stage plays have been produced internationally. Her play Hagel auf Zamfara, adapted from her short story “Hailstones on Zamfara” and directed by Nick Monu, finished its two-year run in Germany in 2013. In 2006, she was awarded the Wole Soyinka Prize for Publishing in Africa, and in 2009, the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. She divides her time between Nigeria, England and the U.S.

TIME Nigeria

West African Leaders Agree on Plan to ‘Crush’ Boko Haram

Paris Summit for safety in Nigeria  AT  The Elysee Palace
From left: Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou, Cameroon's President Paul Biya, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, French President François Hollande, Chad's President Idriss Déby and Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi attend a joint press conference at the Élysée Palace in Paris on May 17, 2014 Thierry Chesnot—Getty Images

Five West African nations, the U.S., U.K. and France came together Saturday to coordinate a multistate crackdown on Boko Haram, the extremist Islamist group which abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria last month

The U.S. joined five West African nations, France and the U.K. on Saturday to coordinate a multistate crackdown on Boko Haram, the extremist Islamist group that abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria last month.

At a meeting in Paris organized by French President François Hollande, heads of state of Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Benin and Nigeria met to discuss a medium- to long-term plan on sharing surveillance information, intelligence and military resources, the New York Times reports. U.S. and E.U. representatives also attended.

The summit was requested by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. “Without West African countries coming together, we will not be able to crush these terrorists,” Jonathan said. Cameroonian President Paul Biya said, “We are here to declare war on Boko Haram,” according to the BBC, while President Idriss Déby of Chad said it would be “total war.”

Until Saturday’s meeting, there had been little cooperation between the West African nations, and their borders are porous to insurgents moving from one country to another.

Boko Haram most recently on Friday attacked a camp run by a Chinese engineering company in northern Cameroon, near Nigeria’s border, abducting 10 Chinese, the BBC reports.

Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls on April 14, spurring an international outcry against the extremist Islamist group. The U.S. has pledged to assist with reconnaissance and intelligence but stopped short of offering military support.

[NYT]

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian President Cancels Trip to Town Where Girls Abducted

Nigeria Centenary
Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan, arrives for a summit to address a seminar on security during an event marking the centenary of the unification of Nigeria's north and south in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Sunday Alamba—ASSOCIATED PRESS

It would have been the president’s first visit to the traumatized town

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan canceled a planned visit Friday to the town where more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted last month by Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Jonathan cited security concerns after news of the trip leaked to the media.

The route from the capital of Abuja to the town of Chibok would have taken Jonathan’s convoy through disputed and dangerous territory, the Associated Press reports.

Reports of disgruntled under-fed and outgunned Nigerian troops have stoked fears of mutiny. The AP reports that soldiers have told the news service some in their ranks fight alongside Boko Haram.

This year alone, 1,500 civilians have been killed amid fighting between government soldiers and insurgents from the country’s Muslim north. The trip would have been a first for Jonathan, a southern Christian who has been accused of not doing enough for the country’s violence-wracked and predominantly Muslim north.

[AP]

 

 

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