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Updated: Sun, 11 May 2014 16:59:02 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Nigerian abduction of schoolgirls 'terrifying,' escapee says



People carry signs as they attend a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls in the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (© NIGERIA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

People carry signs as they attend a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls in the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3OH7T Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

One of the teenagers who escaped from Islamic extremists who abducted more than 300 schoolgirls said Sunday the kidnapping was "too terrifying for words," and she is scared to go back to school.

Science student Sarah Lawan, 19, told The Associated Press that more of the girls could have escaped but that they were frightened by their captors' threats to shoot them.

Lawan spoke in the Hausa language in a phone interview from Chibok, her home and the site of the mass abduction in northeast Nigeria. The failure to rescue 276 of the students who remain captive four weeks later has attracted mounting national and international outrage.

"I am pained that my other colleagues could not summon the courage to run away with me," she said. "Now I cry each time I came across their parents and see how they weep when they see me."

Police say 53 students had escaped and captors are threatening to sell the students still held into slavery.

Lawan spoke as more experts are expected in Nigeria to help in the search, including U.S. hostage negotiators. Nigeria's government belatedly accepted offers of help last week from the United States, Britain, France, China and Spain.

In churches across the nation, Nigerians prayed for the girls, whose plight has brought together ordinary people in a year that had seen growing dissension between Muslims and Christians, disagreements exacerbated by the increasingly deadly attacks of the Boko Haram terrorist network. Africa's most populous nation of 170 million has almost equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.

The Rev. Stephen Omale prayed at a church in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

"Wherever they are, God will bring them out in his own mercy, he will see that they are brought out safely, without harm and also that this act will bring an end to all those who are perpetrating these acts," he told congregants.

'It's a vast country'

France offered Sunday to host a summit with Nigeria and its neighbours focused on the Boko Haram, President Francois Hollande said.

"With Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, I have proposed to hold a meeting with the countries bordering Nigeria," Hollande said during a visit to the Azeri capital of Baku.

"If the countries agree, it should take place next Saturday" in Paris, Hollande added. His aides said that the leaders of Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger might attend. Britain, the European Union and the United States would likely be represented as well.

Also Sunday, a leading Nigerian rights group demanded the UN Security Council impose sanctions on the Boko Haram terrorist network who abducted the girls, saying expressions of concern and condemnation are not enough.

"The future of these missing schoolgirls hangs in a balance. The council should not leave them to fend for themselves," executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project said in a statement. "But it is not enough for the Council to express concern."

He said targeted sanctions would send a strong message.

The United States already has designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization, as has the European Union, making it illegal to contribute to the group. And Washington last year put a $7 million ransom on the head of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, who said in a video last week that he will sell the girls into slavery.

There also have been reports that some of the girls have been forced into marriage with their abductors, who paid a nominal bride price of $12, and that some have been carried across borders into Cameroon and Chad.

U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel cautioned that it is "going to be very difficult" to find the missing girls. In an interview with ABC's "This Week" that aired Sunday, he said " It's a vast country... But we're going to bring to bear every asset we can possibly use to help the Nigerian government."

Lawan, the escapee, said other girls who escaped later have told her that the abductors spoke of their plans to marry them.

She said the thought of going back to school terrifies her — either the burned out ruins of Chibok Government Girls Secondary School or any other school.

"I am really scared to go back there; but I have no option if I am asked to go because I need to finish my final year exams which were stopped half way through."

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