Nigerian officials split on rescue of students

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ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigeria’s military chiefs and the president are apparently split over how to free nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists, with the military saying use of force endangers the hostages and the president reportedly ruling out a prisoner-hostage swap.

The defense chief, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, announced Monday night that the military has located the girls, but offered no details or a way forward. “We can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back,” he said.

Previous military attempts to free hostages have led to the prisoners’ being killed by their abductors, including the deaths of two engineers, a Briton and an Italian, in Sokoto in March 2012.

A human rights activist close to mediators said a swap of detained extremists for the girls was negotiated a week ago but fell through because President Goodluck Jonathan refused to consider it.

Britain’s Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, said two weeks ago that the Nigerian leader had told him categorically he would not consider a prisoner swap.

Community leader Pogu Bitrus of Chibok, the town from which the girls were abducted April 15, says authorities are speaking with “discordant voices” and the president appears under pressure to negotiate.