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Nigerian President: Missing Schoolgirls Likely Still in Country

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Friday he believes the hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month are still in the country and have not been sent across the border, despite rumors to the contrary.

Jonathan’s government has drawn global wrath for its sluggish response to the April 14th kidnapping of over 250 schoolgirls by the Islamic militant group. The president’s comments come after some reports the girls had been brought across the border to Cameroon.

“There are stories that they have moved them outside of the country,” Jonathan said, Reuters reports. “But if they move that number of girls to Cameroon, people will see, so I believe they are still in Nigeria.”

“We are also working with the experts that will use remote sensors to see them (insurgents) wherever they are. So that basically says they are within the Sambisa area,” Jonathan said, referring to the Sambisa forest near the school where the girls were taken.

Jonathan’s statement appears intended to refute rumors that the girls may have been sold as brides to men in neighboring Chad and Cameroon. The rumors were bolstered by a video of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau admitting his group had abducted the girls and saying “I will sell them in the market, by Allah.”

The White House has sent a team of military and law enforcement officials to Nigeria to help locate the missing girls.


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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com