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Nigerian schoolgirls remain in captivity despite pledges for release

For 10 days now there have been reports from Africa that those hundreds of school girls abducted by Boko Haram extremists last Spring would be released. But the girls remain in captivity. And, another 30 adolescents were reportedly abducted in Nigeria on Sunday. For the latest, Tim Cocks of Reuters joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Lagos, Nigeria.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For 10 days now, we have been hearing reports from Africa that those hundreds of schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram extremists last spring were about to be released. But, so far at least, it hasn't happened. And, according to reports, another 30 adolescents were abducted in Nigeria today.

    For the latest, we are joined now via Skype from Lagos, Nigeria, by Tim Cocks of Reuters.

    So, we heard about the deal. Where does it stand?

  • TIM COCKS, Reuters:

    Well, they are still in talks in neighboring Chad.

    They — it was always to be expected. I think that everyone thought the government was being wildly over optimistic in saying we would have the girls out by last Monday.

    The — it is an extremely complicated system, the way Boko Haram works. They have multiple factions which cooperate to some extent. And it is very, very difficult to get them all to do what, say, one particular factions wants them to do.

    The governments say that they are negotiating with bona fide Boko Haram militants and that they are — that they have show willingness to release the girls. But it is still not — it is still not entirely clear whether that faction has all of the girls, whether it has some of the girls, or whether it has access to another faction that is holding them.

    There is so much mystery surrounding this whole thing that it is actually very difficult to say whether or not the girls will be out in a week or whether this whole thing could just fall apart.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So while they talk about negotiating the release of these 200 that the world paid attention to, there have been subsequent kidnappings.

  • TIM COCKS:

    There have been, yes.

    The government says that the kidnappings are the works of criminal groups, which might be true, because, of course, in this area, which has now become so lawless, the border area between Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria, up in the northeast Nigeria, have become so lawless, that there is a lot of associated criminality, which the Boko Haram militants also use to fund their operations.

    It probably wasn't that surprising that, as the government announced a cease-fire, that some group or another would — would go on the rampage and say no, well, we are not agreeing to this.

    But what matters for these talks is whether those girls are — are being held by the faction that is currently in Chad, in talks with the government. And the government says, well, we wouldn't be here if we weren't pretty confident that that is the case.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    At these negotiations, who represents who here? I mean, is government actually sitting across the table from Boko Haram?

  • TIM COCKS:

    Well, there is a guy, Danladi Ahmadu, he claims that he is the secretary-general of Boko Haram. This has raised quite a few alarm bells, in that his — that his name had never been heard of before.

    What really matters to these talks is whether this — this man can actually get those girls freed. And that — the feeling here is that it is still very much a long shot.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And who represents the government in this conversation?

  • TIM COCKS:

    It is all very hush-hush actually.

    The government isn't — doesn't want to give a whole lot away, which is why it was actually considered to be a little bit of a mistake, them announcing the cease-fire, because, before they did that, it had been quiet for a couple of weeks, and suddenly the violence starts up again.

    So I think the thing is very much shrouded in secrecy. We have some — at the moment trying to cover them, but they are — they are very much limiting access to journalists, to information until they have something solid that they can come back and present and say, yes, we have made — we have had a success.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Tim Cocks of Reuters joining us via Skype from Lagos, Nigeria, thanks so much.

  • TIM COCKS:

    Thank you very much.

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