Washington, DC — More than two weeks after suspected Boko Haram militants abducted 275 teenage schoolgirls from their dormitories in northeastern Nigeria, families of the missing gathered in Chibok Thursday to protest what they are calling a lack of action by authorities and security forces tasked with finding them.
Hundreds of relatives gathered on the grounds of the burned-out secondary school, their sobs audible.
"What is happening, nobody cares about it and now our people, we are crying," said one man whose daughter is one of the 180 still missing after being kidnapped at gunpoint on April 14. "We are crying for the whole world to assist, to help us."
"I swear to you, they have never consulted anybody," said Aba, the brother of a kidnapped teen, imploring federal government or military officials to speak directly with families.
"They have never addressed anyone apart from the governor that came on his own, pleading with the parents to be patient that their daughters will soon be back," Aba said. "The security forces, they have not done anything. They've done nothing. They've just sat down in one area and folded their hands, doing nothing, saying nothing."
Echoing demands shouted by demonstrators who marched through the rainy streets of Abuja on Wednesday, relatives of the abductees want the government to seek international help in battling the radical Islamist sect, something authorities have been reluctant to do.
"Bring back our girls alive! All we are saying is bring back our girls," exclaimed demonstrators marching in the nation's capital only a day before, demanding the government take more "concrete and visible action" to rescue the Chibok girls.
While no one has claimed responsibility for last month's kidnapping, it is being blamed on the Boko Haram militants, a group known to kidnap young women for use as servants, spies and so-called "wives." It is believed the militants, whose five-year insurgency has killed thousands, have divided their female hostages among several camps in the Sambisa forest near the borders of Cameroon and Chad.
A Nigerian intelligence agent in Borno state recently told VOA that authorities are working to pinpoint which particular militant holdouts in the Sambisa forest have detained the girls.
Despite a yearlong military campaign against Boko Haram, Nigerian security forces have been unable to stop the near-daily violence in the country's restive and predominantly Muslim northeast. Now the plight of the Chibok girls has become a national cause for a population frustrated by Abuja's inability to stop the crimes of an elusive enemy.
Abdulkareem Haruna contributed reporting from Maiduguri, Nigeria.