A high-ranking British official has revealed that Western intelligence agents were able to locate dozens of the nearly 300 Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014 months after the abduction, but refused to act to save them, citing the danger of multiple deaths during a rescue attempt.
Former British high commissioner to Nigeria Andrew Pocock told The Sunday Times that it took mere months following the Boko Haram raid for British and American forces to locate the girls in the dense Sambisa Forest of northern Nigeria that Boko Haram used as an operating base.
A couple of months after the kidnapping, fly-bys and an American eye in the sky spotted a group of up to 80 girls in a particular spot in the Sambisa forest, around a very large tree, locally called the Tree of Life, along with evidence of vehicular movement and a large encampment.
At the time, the government of Nigeria had not officially requested international aid, limiting the action these groups could take.
More pivotal to the decision to do nothing to save the girls, Pocock argues, was the lack of a viable plan to rescue them without killing many, if not most, of the hostages:
“A land-based attack would have been seen coming miles away and the girls killed. … An air-based rescue, such as flying in helicopters or Hercules, would have required large numbers and meant a significant risk to the rescuers and even more so to the girls.”
“You were damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” he lamented.