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Vigils, marches, prayers for fourth anniversary of Chibok kidnap

AFP  |  Chibok 

Parents of the missing schoolgirls today marked the fourth anniversary of their daughters' kidnapping by Boko Haram, renewing calls for their release and thousands of others seized in the bloody conflict in

Mothers and fathers were among several thousand people who marched to the Government Girls Secondary School, where 276 girls were abducted on the evening of April 14, 2014.

Fifty-seven escaped in the immediate aftermath and four years on, 112 are still being held -- a global symbol of the Islamist insurgency that has devastated the region.

Parents whose daughters have been released wore white tabards over their clothes at the two-hour ceremony, while those whose daughters are still being held wore black.

Hannatu Daudu, whose daughter Saratu, is among the captives told the crowd: "Our only prayer is for our girls to be released and returned to us.

"We need to know if they are alive or dead. If they are alive, let them come back to us. If they are dead, let us know so we can at least pray for them and then overcome this grief.

"It is better to know if our daughters are dead than being left in suspense. This adds to our grief." The ceremony, which included Christian and Muslim prayers, was one of a number of vigils and protests to mark the four-year anniversary of the abduction across

Nigeria's in 2014, Goodluck Jonathan, was heavily criticised for his response to the abduction but the man who replaced him, Muhammadu Buhari, has had more success.

Since 2016, 107 girls have been found, released or escaped as part of a government deal with and the administration has said back-channel talks are ongoing for further releases and a possible end to the wider conflict.

Yakubu Nkeki, the of the Chibok girls parents association, told AFP: "We are praying for every Nigerian who is in the custody of "Let the government do its best to see that every Nigerian citizen in the hands of is released during this year."

Buhari, who is seeking re-election next year, told the Chibok girls' parents their daughters "will never be forgotten or abandoned to their fate".

The former has repeatedly claimed Boko Haram was virtually defeated but while there have been clear army gains, security threats remain. In February, fighters loyal to a Boko Haram faction headed by Abu seized 112 schoolgirls and one boy from the town of Dapchi, in Yobe state.

One hundred and seven were returned in mid-March. Five reportedly died, while one girl -- the only Christian in the group -- is still being held.

Buhari said the return of so many students from and Chibok "should give confidence that all hope is not lost" and showed the government was "doing its very best".

Some parents were in Chibok on Saturday in a show of solidarity. Buhari said there had been "unexpected setbacks" in talks because of infighting within Boko Haram.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, April 14 2018. 18:25 IST