Nigeria must do more to rescue the 195 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped three years ago in the jihadist group Boko Haram’s most infamous attack, the United Nations said Wednesday.
About 220 girls were taken from their school in Chibok in Borno state, where Boko Haram has waged an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic state, killing thousands and displacing more than 2 million people.
Twenty-one Chibok girls were released in October in a deal brokered by Switzerland and the International Red Cross, while a handful of others have escaped or been rescued.
“It is deeply shocking that three years after this deplorable and devastating act of violence, the majority of the girls remain missing,” several U.N. human rights experts said in a statement. “As more and more time passes, there is a risk that the fate of the remaining girls will be forgotten. There must be more that the government of Nigeria, with the support of the international community, can do to locate and rescue them.”
Nigerian government officials were not immediately available for comment.
For more than two years, there was no sign of the Chibok schoolgirls, whose kidnapping sparked global outrage and a celebrity-backed campaign, publicized with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.
But the discovery of one of the girls with a baby last May fueled hopes for their safety, with a further two girls found in later months and a group of 21 released in the October deal.
“We must also remember that the Chibok girls are not the only ones who have been suffering such violence at the hands of Boko Haram,” the U.N. special rapporteurs said. “Thousands of women and children are thought to have been abducted since 2012.”
Boko Haram has kidnapped at least 2,000 boys and girls since 2014, with many used as cooks, sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers, according to Amnesty International.
Boko Haram’s use of children as suicide bombers is increasing in the Lake Chad region, with 27 such attacks recorded in the first three months of the year compared with nine for the same period in 2016, the U.N. children’s agency said.
Despite having lost most of the territory it held in 2015, Boko Haram continues to wage its insurgency, which is now in its eighth year.