The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

July 15, 2014

Pakistani teen wants kidnapped girls freed

ABUJA, Nigeria — Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who survived a Taliban assassination attempt in 2012, marked her 17th birthday Monday with a visit to Nigeria and urged Islamic extremists to free the 219 schoolgirls who were kidnapped there three months ago, calling them her “sisters.”

Yousafzai, who has become an international symbol for women’s rights in the face of hard-line Islam, said Nigeria’s president promised to meet for the first time with the abducted girls’ parents.

“My birthday wish this year is ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ now and alive,” she said, using the social media slogan that has been picked up around the world to demand freedom for the girls, who were abducted in April by the extremist group Boko Haram from a school in the remote northeast Nigerian town of Chibok.

Malala appealed directly to their captors.

“Lay down your weapons. Release your sisters. Release my sisters. Release the daughters of this nation. Let them be free. They have committed no crime.”

She added: “You are misusing the name of Islam ... the Quran teaches brotherhood.”

Malala also spoke against the custom of child brides in her home country, a tradition common in Nigeria, too. Boko Haram has threatened to sell some of the girls as brides if its fighters are not freed.

“Protect girls from cruelty,” she said in her annual Malala Day speech, saying girls should not be forced to marry or to leave school to become brides “when they should be girls,” or to give birth to children “when they themselves are children.”

Boko Haram attacks continued over the weekend with witnesses blaming the group for the bombing of a major bridge on a northeast Nigerian highway that further limits access to its base camps in the Sambisa Forest, where it is believed to be holding some of the girls.

Gunmen destroyed most of the bridge on the road between Maiduguri and Biu on Saturday night, making it impossible for vehicles to cross, the spokesman for the Nigerian Vigilante Group, Abbas Gava, told The Associated Press.

Malala met Monday with Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and told reporters that the president “promised me that the girls will be returned as soon as possible.”

She described an emotional meeting Sunday with some of the girls’ parents.

“I could see tears in their eyes. They were hopeless. But they seem to have this hope in their hearts,” and they were asking if they could meet the president.

Jonathan has not met with any of the parents, though some regularly make the dangerous drive from Chibok to join activists who have held daily rallies in Abuja.

When the activists tried to march peacefully to the presidential villa in May, they were blocked by soldiers and police. Jonathan canceled a planned trip to Chibok that same month.

On Monday, he told Malala that criticism that his government is not doing enough “is very wrong and misplaced,” according to a presidential statement.

“The great challenge in rescuing the Chibok girls is the need to ensure that they are rescued alive,” he said, insisting his government is “very actively pursuing all feasible options” to achieve their safe return.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau put out a new video Sunday in which he repeated demands that the government release detained insurgents in exchange for the girls’ freedom.

“Nigerians are saying ‘Bring Back Our Girls,’ and we are telling Jonathan to bring back our arrested warriors, our army,” he said in the video, which was obtained by the AP through similar channels used for previous messages.

Jonathan so far has refused, despite pleas from the parents.

Since the mass abduction, Boko Haram has increased the number and deadliness of its attacks with a two-pronged approach — bombing cities and towns and a scorched-earth strategy in villages, gunning down villagers, looting livestock and burning down huts.

In the new video, Shekau crowed over recent victories, including two explosions at a fuel depot in Lagos that the government tried to cover up. It would be the first reported bombing by Boko Haram in Lagos — Nigeria’s commercial capital, an Atlantic port and probably the continent’s most populous city with some 20 million people. The attack also raises fears that the insurgency is spreading beyond its stronghold at the opposite end of the country.

At least four people died in the June 25 blasts, including an alleged female suicide bomber, according to Western diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Shekau also claimed responsibility for another bomb that went off hours before at the biggest shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, killing at least 21 people.

On Monday, Malala also appealed to the Nigerian government to dedicate more money to education and to drastically reduce the hundreds of thousands of children who are out of school throughout the country, not just in the area targeted by Boko Haram.

The group’s nickname means “Western education is sinful.” Boko Haram wants to enforce an Islamic state in Nigeria, whose 170 million people are almost equally divided between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Rare summer relief for gasoline prices

    The gasoline price roller coaster is running a strange course this summer.

    August 2, 2014

  • Poll finds public ready to close book on 2 wars

    Three in four Americans think history will judge the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as failures, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows that about the same percentage think it was right to pull forces from the two countries.

    August 2, 2014

  • Rain of asteroids melted early Earth, boiled its oceans

    When you look up at the moon’s pockmarked face, you’re actually staring at Earth’s early history. The rain of asteroids that pummeled the lunar surface hit our planet too - it’s just that erosion and plate tectonics blotted out the evidence. In fact, no rocks anywhere in the world survived to tell the story of the first 500 million years of Earth’s 4.5 billion-year existence, a tumultuous period of frequent impacts known darkly as the Hadean.

    August 1, 2014

  • As U.S. job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

    For millions of workers, happy days aren’t quite here again.

    August 1, 2014

  • Energy boom brings new focus on rail, pipeline safety

    The sharp increase in U.S. oil production and its promise of energy independence is coming with a disastrous byproduct: spills that threaten lives, communities and the environment.

    August 1, 2014

  • Deep-sea octopus goes without food for 4.5 years while watching eggs

    Talk about extreme parenting: Scientists have found a deep-sea octopus mama that faithfully guards the same clutch of eggs for an incredible 4 1/2 years — a record.

    July 31, 2014

  • Study finds 35 percent in U.S. facing debt collectors

    More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

    July 30, 2014

  • U.S. blasts Israel for Kerry criticism

    The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.

    July 29, 2014

  • Outlook on Medicare finances improves

    Medicare’s finances are looking brighter, the government said Monday. The program’s giant hospital trust fund won’t be exhausted until 2030 — four years later than last year’s estimate.

    July 29, 2014

  • Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

    July 28, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video