World Bulletin/News Desk
Militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta on Tuesday accused Israel of pushing for a showdown with the Boko Haram militants to free abducted schoolgirls, urging the Nigerian government to seek a peaceful settlement of the crisis.
"From our experience, it is impossible for any forceful commando-style rescue in forests or creeks to be successful," Gbomo Jomo, the spokesman for the militant Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, said in a statement.
"The Israelis encouraging such a move should understand that Sambisa Forest is a different kettle of fish from Entebbe International Airport," he added.
On April 14, Boko Haram militants stormed a school in Chibok, located on the fringes of Sambisa Forest in the restive northern state of Borno, loading scores of schoolgirls onto trucks before driving away unchallenged.
Covering an area approximately 60,000 square kilometers in Nigeria's northeast, Sambisa is three times the size of Israel.
The size of Sambisa Forest – and the fact that sizeable civilian populations who aren't in any way connected to the insurgency live there – make government counterinsurgency efforts in the area difficult.
In 1975, Israeli commandoes were able to rescue scores of Israelis taken hostages and flown to Entebbe, the main airport of Uganda.
The operation left one Israeli commando, all hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers killed.
Israeli operatives are already in Nigeria as part of global support to help rescue the girls.
Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment.
MEND's position is weighty, measured against its own experience between 2005 and 2009.
The group had in the past taken many people, Nigerians and non-Nigerians, hostage.
Forceful rescue missions hardly succeeded as captives were often exchanged for hefty ransom.
Jomo urged the Nigerian government to accept a recent offer by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau to exchange the kidnapped girls for detained Boko Haram militants.
"MEND supports a prisoner exchange initiative with Boko Haram towards the release of the Chibok girls as the only viable safe option and the threshold towards maintaining contact, further ceasefire and eventual long-term peace and security in that region," he said.
Nigerians remain divided over whether or not government should accept the prisoner swap deal.
But government officials have been inconsistent on the way forward to rescue the girls.
Nigeria's Chief of Defense Staff Alex Badeh said Monday that they know the whereabouts of the girls but are being careful with their rescue operation so as not to endanger their lives.
While information minister Labaran Maku recently said the government will explore "all options," presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said they will not swap the girls for Boko Haram prisoners.Last Mod: 28 Mayıs 2014, 11:05