Nigerian schools close to protest kidnapping

"All we are saying is bring back our girls," the marchers sang to the tune of John Lennon's iconic "Give Peace a Chance."

Scores of protesters chanting "Bring Back Our Girls" marched in the Nigerian capital Thursday as many schools across the country closed to protest the abductions of more than 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, the government's failure to rescue them and the killings of scores of teachers by Islamic extremists in recent years.

"All we are saying is bring back our girls," the marchers sang to the tune of John Lennon's iconic "Give Peace a Chance."

Police in riot gear accompanied the good-natured protesters, and a fire engine with water cannon was parked on standby in front of the road leading to the Aso Rock presidential complex.

The students were seized from a school in the remote northeastern town of Chibok on April 15. Fifty-three escaped and 276 remain in captivity, according to police.

President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration are accused of showing irresponsible indifference to the plight of the abducted students and others kidnapped as well as the tragedies suffered by citizens arbitrarily targeted by the Islamic extremists and abusive Nigerian security forces. The U.N. Human Rights Commissioner has warned that it is the government's responsibility to protect its citizens.

For years, Jonathan and his military leaders have been saying that victory is at hand against the Islamic uprising, even as the 5-year insurgency has grown ever deadlier. More than 2,000 people have been killed this year, compared to an estimated 3,600 in the four previous years.

On Thursday, family and friends searched for victims of the latest atrocity blamed on Boko Haram - twin car bomb blasts at a busy marketplace and bus station in the central city of Jos. The death toll rose to 130, making Tuesday's blasts the deadliest bombing yet committed by the Boko Haram extremists, though they have not claimed responsibility.

Many of the dead may never be identified, University of Jos student leader Dickson Odeh told The Associated Press after his group searched several hospital mortuaries. They were able to identify the bodies of seven students, some only from ID papers on mutilated bodies, but still are searching for others, he said.

"It's horrible," Odeh said in front of the Jos University Teaching Hospital. "Many bodies are burned beyond recognition."

Among those identified was Michael Obgole, a medical student. He "was ready to sacrifice at any time," said a friend, Ejiro Otete "I think our generation will miss somebody like him."

Inside the hospital, 23-year-old survivor Franklyn Anderson cried into her mother's shoulder "Mommy, mommy that fire was terrible!"

She said she got hit by the blast because she had a yen for fried yams and wandered into the market to find some.

Lying beside a young woman whose leg was blown off, Anderson, a drama student, thanked God for her survival, intact. "I'll pull through ... because I know God is here for me, He gave me another chance, He gave me another life," she said.

Thursday's school shutdown was organized by the Nigerian Union of Teachers also to protest ongoing insecurity that has teachers as well as students filled with fear.

The union said the extremists have killed 173 of its members in recent years. It is not known how many other teachers have died.

Boko Haram - the nickname means "Western education is forbidden" - blames Western influences for endemic corruption that keeps most Nigerians in poverty despite the country's wealth of oil, minerals, agriculture and thriving movie industry.

National and international outrage forced Jonathan to accept international help this month to rescue the kidnapped schoolgirls, mainly technical, intelligence-gathering and surveillance expertise.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday said the mass abduction was a "tragic reminder" of what happens to girls around the world. She spoke at a White House meeting to discuss furthering education for girls in the U.S. and abroad.

Eighty U.S. Air Force personnel have arrived in Chad and have begun their mission to help locate nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in neighboring Nigeria, a U.S. military spokesman said Thursday.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the U.S. military personnel will expand the search using unarmed drones. Manned U.S. aircraft also are searching the area from a base in neighboring Niger.

The U.N. Security Council was expected Thursday to declare Boko Haram a terrorist group and impose sanctions on the extremists. Nigeria, which is serving a two-year term on the council, asked the committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida to add Boko Haram to the list of organizations subject to an arms embargo and asset freeze. Unless any of the 14 other council member object by a Thursday afternoon deadline, Boko Haram will be added to the al-Qaida sanctions list.


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