Kano: Hundreds of parents in Nigeria, many dressed in red, held a day of desperate protest on Thursday in the town where the kidnapping of scores of schoolgirls by Islamists has left families lurching from fury to despair.
The parents began their march outside the residence of a local chief in Chibok, the town in Borno state where suspected Boko Haram insurgents stormed into a school and abducted the girls at gunpoint over a fortnight ago.
The mothers and fathers -- some wailing, some chanting angrily -- marched towards the scene of the kidnapping, carrying placards reading "Find Our Daughters", before holding a prayer ceremony at the school gates.
"We want our daughters back. We want the United Nations to come and assist in rescuing our daughters. Through this march, we want to tell the whole world that we need their help to secure the release of our daughters," Enoch Mark, whose daughter and two nieces were abducted, told AFP.
One father drew a damning parallel with recent international efforts to find the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.
"Imagine 25 countries joining hands in a search for a missing aircraft in Malaysia whose passengers are presumed dead. Here we are talking of scores of living girls abducted by people known to have no mercy, but the government doesn`t seem to care much," said a tearful Yakubu Maina.
The Borno government says 129 girls were taken and that 52 have since escaped.
But locals, including the principal at the targeted Government Girls Secondary School, say 230 students were taken and 187 are still missing.
The leader of Chibok`s elders forum, Pogu Bitrus, told AFP he had received information that the girls were trafficked into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad and sold as brides to insurgents for 2,000 naira ($12, nine euros).
The report has not been confirmed.
"Death is preferable to this life of misery we have been living since their abduction," said one mother at the protest, without giving his name. "We call on our government to sit up and rescue our girls."Anger at the government`s ineffectual response has fuelled protests across the country.
Police fired teargas to disperse a group of protesters on Thursday in central Lagos, local media reported, a day after hundreds rallied in the capital Abuja.
Speaking at a separate May Day rally in Abuja, the head of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulwahed Omar, said: "Our hearts bleed and we pray for their safe release.
"The war on terrorism does not seem to be going well at the moment. We demand better initiatives and more commitment," he told a crowd that included President Goodluck Jonathan, who has faced harsh criticism over the government`s response.
The mass kidnapping is one of the most shocking attacks in Boko Haram`s five-year extremist uprising, which has killed thousands across the north and centre of the country, including 1,500 people this year alone.
A delegation from the Senate in Abuja met with Jonathan on Wednesday to discuss the rescue operation, Senate spokesman Eyinnaya Abaribe told AFP on Thursday, but he declined to give details.