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27/05/2014 04:18 BST | Updated 27/05/2014 07:59 BST

#BringBackOurGirls: Nigeria Military Says It Knows Where Kidnapped Schoolgirls Are – But Won't Rescue Them

Nigeria's military has apparently located nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists, but fears using force to try to free them could get them killed.

The country's chief of defence, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, told demonstrators supporting the much-criticised military that Nigerian troops can save the girls.

His comments were reported by the News Agency of Nigeria, a state-run news service.

But he warned: "We can't go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."

Who Are Boko Haram? The Islamist Terrorists Who Have Kidnapped More Than 200 Nigerian Schoolgirls

Nigeria's military has located nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists but fears using force to try to free them could get them killed.

The country's chief of defence, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, told demonstrators supporting the much-criticised military that Nigerian troops can save the girls.

But he warned: "We can't go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."

He spoke to thousands of demonstrators who marched to Defense Ministry headquarters in Abuja, the capital. Many were brought in on buses, indicating it was an organised event.

Asked by reporters where they had found the girls, Badeh refused to elaborate.

"We want our girls back. I can tell you we can do it. Our military can do it. But where they are held, can we go with force?" he asked the crowd.

People roared back, "No!"

"If we go with force what will happen?" Badeh asked.

"They will die," the demonstrators responded.

That appeared to leave negotiation the sole option, but a human rights activist close to negotiators said a deal to swap the girls for detained Boko Haram members was agreed last week and then scuttled at the last minute by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The activist who is close to those mediating between Boko Haram extremists and government officials said the girls would have been freed last week Monday.

Jonathan had already told British officials that he would not consider an exchange. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Nigeria's military and government have faced national and international outrage over their failure to rescue the girls seized by Boko Haram militants from a remote northeastern school six weeks ago.

Jonathan's reluctance to accept offered help for weeks is seen as unwillingness to have outsiders looking in on what is considered a very corrupt force.

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