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Fate Of Girls Abducted In Nigeria Now Uncertain

This post was updated at 5:50 p.m. ET.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports that Nigeria's defense ministry has retracted its earlier claim that they missing schoolgirls were free.

"[A] report was filed in from the field indicating that a major breakthrough had been recorded in the search," the ministry said in a statement.

"There was no reason to doubt this official channel, hence the information was released to the public immediately," it said. "Surprisingly however, the school principal, one of the sources quoted in the report has denied all that was attributed to her for whatever reasons. This is an unfortunate development indeed, yet the Defence Headquarters would not want to join issues with anyone."

Ofeibea says the retraction is "Cold comfort to the town of Chibok which has deployed all able-bodied men to the dangerous Sambisa Forest hoping to finding the schoolgirls the military claimed to have freed."

Here is our original post:

A Nigerian school principal says searchers are still looking for about 100 girls and young women abducted by Islamist extremists, even though the nation's military has said all but eight of the victims are now safe and accounted for.

"We are still waiting and praying for the safe return of the students ... the security people, especially the vigilantes and the well-meaning volunteers of Gwoza are still out searching for them," Principal Asabe Kwambura told The Associated Press on Thursday. The girls were taken by force from her school on Monday.

There was word from authorities late Wednesday, as we reported, that all but eight of the girls had either escaped or been rescued. But Kwambura says only 14 girls have returned to their homes or school in the town of Chibok.

Nigerian authorities suspect the radical Islamist group Boko Haram is behind the abductions. It objects to Western culture, and in particular Western schools.

Boko Haram also is being blamed for a deadly attack Monday near Nigeria's capital, Abuja. More than 70 people were killed and dozens more injured when a bomb went off at a bus station. The explosion set off other blasts as vehicles in the vicinity burned.

We have posted about Boko Haram many times in the past two years. Among previous attacks blamed on that group:

-- February 2014. More Than Two Dozen Boys Killed In Attack On Nigerian School.

-- September 2013. Militants Kill Students In Dorms At Nigerian College.

-- June 2012. Church Bombings And Reprisal Killings In Nigeria.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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