Jonathan meets parents of missing girls

Goodluck Jonathan assured parents he will do everything possible to secure the release of the girls.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (R) speaks to some of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped Islamist captors and relatives of the hostages during a meeting at the presidency in Abuja on 22 July, 2014. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says he will do everything possible to secure the release of the nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram 100 days ago.

Campaigners in Nigeria and abroad have heaped pressure on Jonathan to rescue the girls and do more to protect civilians in the remote northeast.

On Tuesday, 184 parents of abducted girls and 57 other girls who escaped the rebels met Jonathan in the presidential villa, his first meeting with them since the kidnapping. They looked sad and distraught both before and after the meeting.

"Our commitment is not just to get the girls out, it is also to rout Boko Haram completely from Nigeria. But we are very mindful of the safety of the girls," Jonathan told them, according to a statement after the meeting.

"We want to return them all alive to their parents. If they are killed in any rescue effort, then we have achieved nothing."

Some of them said they were comforted by the president's assurance that he'll ensure the safe return of the kidnapped girls.

Some of the schoolgirls who managed to escape have described their ordeal.

Ayuba Alamison, a parent at the meeting who has two daughters with the rebels, said Jonathan had promised they would be brought home soon.

Adamu Usman, Red Cross member from Damboa who fled on Sunday with his family, said there was no Boko Haram presence there now but they could attack with impunity. He denied reports that Boko Haram had hoisted black, al-Qaeda style flags in the town.

A raid on an army base in northeast Nigeria and massacres of civilians in nearby villages at the weekend have left Boko Haram free to move unopposed in a strategic garrison town, witnesses and security sources said.

A Red Cross official who fled the town of Damboa said 50 people were killed in the attacks on the town and six surrounding villages. The violence also drove out 15,000 civilians, the highest number recorded in such a short time.

The insurgents have yet to establish any permanent presence in Damboa and nearby villages, but a power vacuum existing since Nigerian troops stationed there were pushed out two weeks ago enables them to move as they please.

Additional reporting by Reuters