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Senior Nigerian military official claims they know location of the kidnapped girls

Nigerian troops participate in drills in Lagos
Nigerian troops participate in drills in Lagos
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Alex Badeh, a senior Nigerian military official who holds the title chief of defense staff, told reporters on Sunday that the Nigerian military knows the location of the 270 kidnapped girls. Badeh said he could not reveal the location or offer any evidence. He did not explain whether they knew a precise spot or just a general area where the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram is hiding the girls.

"The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you," Badeh said. "We can't go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."

This announcement will surely be taken with grains of salt, as the Nigerian military has frequently stumbled in its efforts against Boko Haram. In March, for example, when a group of northern Nigerians informed the military that Boko Haram had holed up in their village, the military did nothing for several days, then bombed the village after the Boko Haram fighters had already left. Western officials have occasionally suggested that the Nigerian military may be doing more harm than good.

On the other hand, last week the US military deployed 80 troops to the neighboring country of Chad to help find the girls, which suggests they may be on Boko Haram's trail. The Nigerian military cannot operate so freely in Chad, which like Nigeria has areas where governance is weaker and Boko Haram may feel safer.

The Nigerian government recently backed out of a deal to release some Islamist prisoners in exchange for Boko Haram releasing some of the kidnapped girls. It's not yet clear why the government decided to drop the arrangement.

To understand what's going on in Nigeria, who kidnapped these girls, why they did it, and why the government is having such a tough time dealing with this, read our cards explaining this story. You can start with the first one below and read the rest here: