Nigeria’s president has said he has ordered “total war” against the armed group Boko Haram which last month abducted 276 schoolgirls in the northeastern state of Borno.
Goodluck Jonathan made the comments on Thursday in a televised speech that reassured the girls’ parents that his forces would free them.
“I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism,” Jonathan said in a televised speech to mark Democracy Day.
Jonathan also said he had authorised security forces to use “any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done. I assure you … that these thugs will be driven away. It will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal.”
He also blamed the uprising by Boko Haram, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in the country’s north, on “extremist foreign elements” and offered amnesty to those who renounce violence.
Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from the capital Abuja, said the president’s speech had no information on what his government was doing to bring the abducted girls back home.
The phrase “total war” was used by Idriss Deby, the president of neighbouring Chad, following a meeting of West African countries in Paris in mid-May, designed to define a common strategy to fight Boko Haram.
The northeast of Nigeria is plagued by Boko Haram attacks and has been under a state of emergency since May 2013.
In the latest violence, at least 35 people were killed by gunmen in three villages in Borno state.
“With the support of Nigerians, our neighbours and the international community, we will reinforce our defence, free our girls and rid Nigeria of terrorists,” Jonathan said.
The Nigerian military said on Monday it had located the 219 schoolgirls still held but that it would not use force to free them as that would put their lives at great risk.
Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh said any potential armed rescue operation was fraught with danger as the girls could be caught in the crossfire.
Nigeria has been battling Boko Haram for years without success, and has had to seek assistance from world powers such as the US, France, Britain and China to free the abducted girls.