Nigeria has called off a deal with Islamist group Boko Haram for the release of some of the abducted schoolgirls.
Some of the girls were set to be freed in exchange for imprisoned Islamist militants.
Boko Haram group snatched more than 200 girls from a school on April 14.
Nigeria’s government is under pressure to do more to tackle the group and bring about the girls’ release.
Nigeria has called off a deal with Islamist group Boko Haram for the release of some of the abducted schoolgirls
Thousands of people have died since Boko Haram began a violent campaign against the Nigerian government in 2009 and in the subsequent security crackdown.
Officials have held talks with the group to secure the release of the schoolgirls.
An intermediary met Boko Haram leaders earlier this month and visited the location in north-east Nigeria where the girls were being held.
A deal was almost reached to set some of the girls free in exchange for the release of 100 Boko Haram members being held in detention.
But the government cancelled the planned agreement shortly before the swap was due to take place.
The reasons for the withdrawal are unclear.
It came just after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan attended a meeting in Paris hosted by President Francois Hollande of France where leaders said they had agreed a “global and regional action plan” against Boko Haram.
The girls, who were mainly Christian, were taken from their school in Chibok, in north-eastern Borno state and are thought to be held in a remote forested area of the state, close to the border with Chad and Cameroon.
Nigeria previously insisted it would not agree to free Boko Haram members in return for their release.
The UK, the US, China and France are among the countries to have sent teams of experts and equipment to help to locate them.
Nigerian teachers are holding a day of protests in support of more than 200 schoolgirls seized by the Islamist group Boko Haram last month.
Teaching unions said they would also march in memory of the 173 teachers killed by militants.
It follows two days of bloody attacks in the country, in which nearly 150 people have been killed.
Nigerian teachers are holding a day of protests in support of more than 200 schoolgirls seized by the Islamist group Boko Haram last month
Nigeria’s government is under pressure to do more to tackle Boko Haram and bring about the girls’ release.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday said the US had deployed 80 military personnel to neighboring Chad to help in the search.
The girls were taken from their school in Chibok, in north-eastern Borno state, on April 14. They are thought to be held in a remote forested area of the state, close to the border with Chad and Cameroon.
The Nigerian Union of Teachers said all schools across the country would be closed so teachers can participate in a series of “Bring Back Our Girls” rallies.
President of the union Michael Olukoya said they would not stop campaigning “until our girls are brought back safe and alive and the perpetrators of the heinous crime are brought to book”, Nigeria’s Premium Times quotes him as saying.
Another union leader, Segun Raheem, said that teachers too were also a target – and the authorities were not doing enough to protect them.
Nigeria is reeling from several days of violence.
Boko Haram is accused of killing 27 people in attacks on two villages, Shawa and Alagarno, not far from where the schoolgirls were taken.
Witnesses said they torched homes and shot at residents before leaving with stolen food and vehicles.
A double bombing in the central city of Jos on Tuesday, in which 118 people died, is also thought to have been the work of Boko Haram.
Two bomb explosions killed at least 46 people in the central Nigerian city of Jos, police say.
The first blast was in a busy market and the second went off outside a nearby hospital.
No group has said it carried out the attack but Boko Haram militants have carried out a spate of recent bombings.
Jos has also seen deadly clashes between Christian and Muslim groups in recent years.
Two bomb explosions killed at least 46 people in the central Nigerian city of Jos (photo Reuters)
A spokesperson for the regional governor told AFP news agency that most of the victims were women. The market and bus terminal are part of the commercial centre of Jos.
The second blast was some 30 minutes after the first and killed some rescue workers.
President Goodluck Jonathan condemned the attack as a “tragic assault on human freedom”.
“President Jonathan assures all Nigerians that the government remains fully committed to winning the war against terror and… will not be cowed by the atrocities of enemies of human progress and civilization,” his office said.
Although Boko Haram has previously targeted Jos, the capital of Plateau state, the city has been relatively calm for almost two years.
Plateau state lies on the fault-line which divides Nigeria’s largely Muslim north from its mainly Christian south.
The state has witnessed violence blamed on land disputes between semi-nomadic Muslim Fulani herdsmen and mainly Christian Berom farmers.
Nigeria is also currently trying to trace more than 200 girls captured by Boko Haram in April from a boarding school in the north-eastern town of Chibok.
The US is flying manned surveillance missions over Nigeria to try to find more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
The US is also sharing commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerian government, officials said.
It comes after militants released a video of about 130 girls, saying they could be swapped for jailed fighters.
Boko Haram seized them from a school in the northern Borno state on 14 April.
“We have shared commercial satellite imagery with the Nigerians and are flying manned ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets over Nigeria with the government’s permission,” said a senior administration official, who declined to be named.
A team of about 30 US experts – members of the FBI and defense and state departments – is in Nigeria to help with the search.
The types of aircraft deployed have not been revealed, but the US has sophisticated planes that can listen into a wide range of mobile phone and telecommunications traffic.
The US is flying manned surveillance missions over Nigeria to try to find more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram
Other officials, quoted by Reuters, said the US was also considering deploying unmanned “drone” aircraft to aid the search.
US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier on Monday that intelligence experts were closely examining the Boko Haram video for clues that might help locate the girls.
Pogu Bitrus, a leader in the town of Chibok, from where the girls were seized, said vegetation in the video resembled that in the nearby Sambisa forest reserve.
The video showed some 136 girls wearing bulky hijabs. Militants said they had “converted” to Islam.
The girls’ families have said that most of those seized are Christians.
Two girls on the video singled out for questioning said they were Christians but had converted to Islam.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said the girls could be exchanged for “our brethren in your prison”.
“I swear to almighty Allah, you will not see them again until you release our brothers that you have captured,” he said.
In a video last week, Abubakar Shekau threatened to sell the girls into slavery.
A Nigerian government statement said “all options” for the girls’ release were on the table.
However, Interior Minister Abba Moro appeared to dismiss the offer, saying no exchange would take place. The reason for the discrepancy was unclear.
It appears some sort of negotiations will take place because of the large presence of international advisers in the country, including hostage negotiators.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”, had previously said the girls should not have been at school and should get married instead.
The militants have been engaged in a violent campaign against the Nigerian government since 2009.
President Goodluck Jonathan – whose government has been heavily criticized for its response to the abduction – said on Sunday that help from abroad had made him optimistic of finding the girls.
He says he believes the girls are still in Nigeria.
The kidnapping has triggered a huge international campaign with world leaders and celebrities calling for the children to be released.
The UK, the US, France and China already have teams helping on the ground in Nigeria. An Israeli counter-terrorism team is also on its way.
According to Amnesty International, Nigeria’s military had advance warning of an attack on Chibok, where some 270 girls were kidnapped but failed to act.
The human rights group says it was told by credible sources that the military had more than four hours’ warning of the raid by Boko Haram militants.
Fifty-three of the girls escaped soon after being seized in Chibok on April 14 but more than 200 remain captive.
Nigeria’s authorities say they “doubt the veracity” of the Amnesty report.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said on Friday that he believed the schoolgirls were still in his country and had not been moved to neighboring Cameroon.
Fifty-three of the girls escaped soon after being seized in Chibok on April 14 but more than 200 remain captive
“There are stories that they have moved them outside of the country. But if they move that number of girls to Cameroon, people will see, so I believe they are still in Nigeria,” Goodluck Jonathan told journalists at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Abuja.
Amnesty International says it was told by several people that the military in Maiduguri, capital of the north-eastern Borno state, was informed of the impending attack on Chibok town soon after 19:00 local time.
It says that a local official was contacted by herdsmen who said that armed men had asked them where the Government Girls’ Secondary School was located in the town.
Despite the warning, reinforcements were not sent to help protect the town in the remote area, which was attacked at around midnight, Amnesty International says.
One reason, the rights group says, was a “reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped armed groups”.
Amnesty’s Africa Director Netsanet Belay said it amounted to a “gross dereliction of Nigeria’s duty to protect civilians”.
Boko Haram has admitted capturing the girls, saying they should not have been in school and should get married instead.
In a video released earlier this week, leader Abubakar Shekau threatened to “sell” the students.
Teams of experts from the US and UK – including military advisers, negotiators and counselors – have arrived in Nigeria to help locate and rescue the abductees.
Seven American military officials arrived on Friday, with more expected to come on Saturday, including three FBI personnel.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, began its insurgency in Borno state in 2009.
Nigeria is offering a 50 million naira ($300,000) reward to anyone who can help locate and rescue more than 200 abducted schoolgirls.
The schoolgirls were kidnapped more than three weeks ago by Islamist Boko Haram militants from their boarding school in the north-eastern state of Borno.
Eleven other girls were taken on Sunday night after two villages were attacked.
Boko Haram’s leader admitted earlier this week that his fighters had abducted the girls in the middle of the night from their school in the town of Chibok on April 14.
Nigeria is offering a $300,000 reward to anyone who can help locate and rescue more than 200 abducted schoolgirls
Abubakar Shekau threatened to “sell” the students, saying they should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married.
The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, began its insurgency in 2009.
More than 1,500 have been killed in the violence and subsequent security crackdown this year alone.
A statement from the police said the 50 million naira reward would be given to anyone who “volunteers credible information that will lead to the location and rescue of the female students”.
Six phone numbers are provided, calling on the general public to be “part of the solution to the present security challenge”.
“The police high command also reassures all citizens that any information given would be treated anonymously and with utmost confidentiality,” the statement said.
The abductions have prompted widespread criticism of the Nigerian government and demonstrations countrywide.
The girls are mostly aged between 16 and 18 and were taking their final year exams.
The governments of Chad and Cameroon have denied suggestions that the abducted girls may have already been smuggled over Nigeria’s porous borders into their territory.
A team of US experts has been sent to Nigeria to help in the hunt.
Security has been tightened in Abuja as several African leaders and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang are attending the World Economic Forum for Africa in the city, following two recent attacks there blamed on the insurgents.
The Nigerian government has decided to shut schools and government offices across the capital Abuja, while a World Economic Forum conference takes place next week.
A big security operation is being promised to protect more than 1,000 delegates at the three-day meeting, after two deadly bomb attacks in Abuja.
An explosion late on Thursday killed 19 people, two weeks after a nearby bombing left 75 dead.
Islamist militant group Boko Haram is being blamed for the violence.
The same group is believed to be behind the kidnapping of more than 200 teenage girls from their school in Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria more than a fortnight ago.
The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014 will take place in Abuja from May 7 to May 9
The group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, has staged a wave of attacks in northern Nigeria in recent years, with an estimated 1,500 killed in the violence and subsequent security crackdown this year alone.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s government says 5,000 police and soldiers will be deployed for the World Economic Forum on Africa, which begins on Wednesday.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the presidents of Rwanda, Senegal and Kenya will be among international as well as African figures at the forum.
While the official reason for closing all schools and government offices in Abuja is to ensure traffic flows smoothly, tightening security is also a likely reason.
Fewer vehicles on the roads should enable stricter searches and cut the number of potential targets for further bomb attacks, he adds.
“The government has taken the strongest measures to ensure a safe forum. We ask participants not to let terror win,” Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in a statement.
In a separate development, the US embassy has warned its citizens of a planned “unspecified attack” on one of two Sheraton hotels in Lagos.
The finance minister said the security measures were aimed at calming nerves but told Nigerian media the focus on returning the abducted girls to their families was “much more important”.
Boko Haram has not made any response to the accusation that its fighters abducted the girls from the school in Chibok town in the middle of the night on April 14.
Since the kidnapping, parents have criticized the government’s search and rescue efforts.
The police chief in Borno state has put the number of missing girls at 223 and has appealed to parents to come forward with photographs of their daughters to confirm who has been seized. According to the police commissioner, 53 of the girls are believed to have escaped.
It is thought that the militants initially took the girls to the Sambisa forest; there have been subsequent reports they have been taken over the borders into Chad and Cameroon and possibly forced to “marry” the insurgents.
Boko Haram militants have attacked a military airbase in Maiduguri, north-eastern Nigeria, destroying two helicopters, the authorities say.
Eyewitnesses say hundreds of militants attacked several areas of the city of Maiduguri, starting early on Monday.
A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in Maiduguri. Its civilian airport was also briefly closed.
Thousands of people have been killed since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its campaign to install Islamic law.
In May, a state of emergency was declared in Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital, as well as two neighboring states, while there has been a massive military deployment to the worst-affected areas.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Brig Gen Chris Olukolade said in a statement that two helicopters and three decommissioned military aircraft had been “incapacitated” during the attack which had been repelled.
Boko Haram militants have attacked a military airbase in Maiduguri destroying two helicopters
He said some army bases had also been targeted, while 24 insurgents had been killed and two soldiers wounded.
Local residents told the AFP news agency that hundreds of heavily armed Islamist gunmen besieged the air force and army bases, razing buildings and setting shops and petrol stations ablaze.
“I saw two air force helicopters burnt,” a local official told AFP.
Bomb and gun attacks were carried out in Maiduguri, an AFP reporter in the city said.
A resident said: “We heard women and children in the barracks crying and wailing. At the gate, I saw some vehicles destroyed and the checkpoint there in shreds.”
There are reports of military checkpoints being attacked in different parts of the city.
Some eyewitnesses told the AP news agency they had seen bodies with their throats slit.
Others said several vehicles had been driven out of the air base carrying the bodies of victims.
Government and military officials said scores of people may be dead, AP reported.
Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram is to be named as a foreign terrorist organization by the US state department.
The move, expected to take place on Wednesday, means US regulatory agencies are instructed to block business and financial transactions with Boko Haram.
It will become a crime under US law to provide material support to the group.
Boko Haram wants to impose Islamic law in northern Nigeria and has been blamed for thousands of deaths.
The group began its insurgency in 2009, and targets both the military and civilians, including schools, and frequently clashes with the Nigerian armed forces.
While Boko Haram’s main focus is Nigeria, the US has cited links to the al-Qaeda affiliate in West Africa, and extremist groups in Mali.
The US state department has not formally announced its decision to brand the group a terrorist organization.
However, the Associated Press news agency cited an unnamed US official, whilst Reuters quoted congressional sources and others briefed on the matter.
Nigeria’s government declared Boko Haram and another militant group Ansaru as terrorist organizations in June, warning that anyone who helps them will face a minimum prison sentence of 20 years.
Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram is to be named as a foreign terrorist organization by the US state department
The US’s decision will be welcomed by the Nigerian government and the Christian Association of Nigeria, which has long been campaigning for the US to declare Boko Haram a terrorist group.
The Obama administration had so far refused, fearing that it could give Boko Haram greater legitimacy in global jihadi circles.
The US is unlikely to identify Boko Haram’s financial backers, when the Nigerian government has up to now failed to do so.
Last year, top US diplomat for Africa Johnnie Carson said Boko Haram exploited popular discontent in northern Nigeria, and the government needed to tackle the political and economic grievances of the mainly Muslim population in the region.
However, Johnnie Carson acknowledged “reports of contact and growing relationships between elements of Boko Haram and other extremists in Africa, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”.
In August 2011, an attack on a UN building in Abuja, Nigeria, marked a turning point as a threat to US interests.
Last year, Lisa Monaco – now the chief counter-terrorism adviser to President Barack Obama – sent a letter to the state department saying Boko Haram met the criteria to be listed as a “foreign terrorist” group because, she said, it either engages in terrorism that threatens the US or has a capability or intent to do so.
The US state department later designated three alleged Boko Haram leaders as terrorists, but stopped short of a wider declaration against the group.
Founded in 2002
Official Arabic name, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad)
Initially focused on opposing Western education
Nicknamed Boko Haram, a phrase in the local Hausa language (Western education is forbidden)
Launches military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state across Nigeria
Founding leader Mohammed Yusuf killed in same year in police custody
Succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, who the military wrongly claimed in 2009 had been killed
Suspected to have split into rival factions in 2012
Military claims in August 2013 that Abubakar Shekau and his second-in-command Momodu Bama have been killed in separate attacks; no independent confirmation of claim
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three states after a spate of deadly attacks by Islamist militant groups.
In a televised address, the president said he had given the military powers to take over security in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
Goodluck Jonathan also ordered more troops to be sent to the north-eastern states.
Islamist group Boko Haram has been blamed for most of the violence, killing some 2,000 people since 2010.
Nigeria is also affected by a spate of conflicts over land, religion and oil.
In the latest violence, 53 people were killed and 13 villages burnt in central Nigeria’s Benue state on Tuesday.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three states after a spate of deadly attacks by Islamist militant groups
The conflict, which started last week, is said to have been caused by a long-running dispute over land ownership between cattle herders and farmers.
In a pre-recorded address broadcast on Tuesday, President Goodluck Jonathan said: “What we are facing is not just militancy or criminality, but a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose a very serious threat to national unity and territorial integrity.”
Referring to recent attacks by “insurgents and terrorists” on government buildings and killings of officials and other civilians, the president said that “these actions amount to a declaration of war”.
“We will hunt them down, we will fish them out, and we will bring them to justice,” he said.
At the same time, Goodluck Jonathan stressed that – despite the state of emergency – politicians in the three states would remain in their posts.
Goodluck Jonathan also admitted that the government was not in control of the whole country.
This is not the first time President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency, but this is a clear admission that far from being weakened by the army offensive, the threat of the Islamist militants is growing.
Last week, Goodluck Jonathan had to cut short a trip to South Africa to deal with the growing violence.
A video published on YouTube appears to show seven members of a French family, including four children, abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram in Cameroon.
The footage shows an armed man reading a statement in front of two men, a woman and four children.
Claiming to be from the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, the alleged kidnappers demand the release of prisoners in Cameroon and Nigeria.
The family was snatched last Tuesday by gunmen on motorbikes.
Following the abduction, the French government said it believed the couple, their children aged five, eight, 10 and 12, and an uncle were taken across the border into Nigeria, probably by Boko Haram.
The family lives in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, where the father worked for the French gas group Suez. They had been returning from a visit to Waza National Park when they were kidnapped.
On Thursday, France confirmed it had “received information that the group Boko Haram is claiming to be holding the French family”.
“These images are terribly shocking and display cruelty without limits,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.
A video published on YouTube appears to show seven members of a French family, including four children, abducted by Islamist group Boko Haram in Cameroon
In the video, one of the male hostages said they had been kidnapped by Jamaatu Ahlis Sunna Liddaawati wal-Jihad – the Arabic name for Boko Haram.
One of the alleged kidnappers warned that France had launched a war on Islam.
Behind him, the alleged family is shown flanked by two armed men in camouflage uniforms.
A source close to the family confirmed their identities to the AFP news agency.
Laurent Fabius said it was still trying to verify the authenticity of the video.
Last week, a French minister wrongly confirmed reports that the family had been found and released in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, French nationals have been urged to leave northern Cameroon “as quickly as possible”.
The French foreign ministry said on its website citizens were “officially advised not to go to the far north of Cameroon (the shores of Lake Chad in the South Maroua), and the border with Nigeria, until further notice”.
Boko Haram has staged many attacks across northern Nigeria in recent years, targeting churches, government buildings and the security forces.
Another Islamist group – Ansaru – is also active in the region.
Last Sunday, Ansaru claimed the abduction of seven foreign workers in Nigeria.
Italian, British, Greek and Lebanese workers are thought to be among those held after an attack on a construction project in Bauchi state.
Ansaru also says it is holding a French national, Francis Colump, who was seized in the northern state of Katsina.