Nigerian authorities knew that Boko Haram planned an armed raid on the girls boarding school in Chibok, where almost 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped almost a month ago, it has been revealed.
The damning revelation is likely to spark fresh anger at the Nigerian government and security services, already the target of worldwide protests for their perceived lack of movement in finding the girls.
Amnesty International says it has verified multiple reports from credible sources who say Nigerian security forces had more than four hours of advance warning about the attack but did not stop it.
“The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram’s impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime," Netsanet Belay, Amnesty’s Africa Director, speaking from Abuja, said.
Nigeria’s military headquarters in Maiduguri was aware of the impending attack in the early evening, before Boko Haram's night attack, said Amnesty.
Vigilantes in Gagilam, a neighbouring village, raised the alarm on the evening of 14 April after a large group of unidentified armed men entered their village on motorbikes and said they were headed to Chibok.
One local official who was contacted by Gagilam residents told Amnesty: “At around 10:00 PM on 14 April, I called [several] security officers to inform them about earlier information I had received from the vigilantes in Gagilam village.
"They had told us that strange people had arrived in their village that evening on motorbikes and they said they were heading to Chibok. I made several other calls, including to Maiduguri. I was promised by the security people that reinforcement were on their way.”
But the base could not muster troops, and reportedly feared engaging with Boko Haram, who are frequently better-armed.
"There’s a lot of frustration, exhaustion and fatigue among officers and [troops] based in the hotspots…many soldiers are afraid to go to the battle fronts," one military officer said.
“It amounts to a gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians, who remain sitting ducks for such attacks," Belay continued.
"The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls’ safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again.
“The abduction and continued detention of these school girls are war crimes, and those responsible must be brought to justice. Attacks on schools also violate the right to education and must be halted immediately.”