Relatives of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram said they would hold a youth march and candle-lit vigil on Thursday to mark 500 days since the abductions.

Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Secondary School in the remote town of Chibok in Borno state on April 14 last year, seizing 276 girls who were preparing for end-of-year exams.

Fifty-seven escaped but nothing has been heard of the remaining 219 since May last year, when about 100 of them appeared in a Boko Haram video dressed in Muslim attire and reciting the Koran.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has since said they have all converted to Islam and been “married off”.

The Bring Back Our Girls campaign said Tuesday it would stage a “Chibok Girls Ambassador March” in the capital Abuja on the 500-day anniversary of the kidnappings, followed by a candle-lit procession.

“Since 498 days that they have been missing… we failed them and they were taken and the best thing is for us to have rescued them that very day. And up until now, 498 days after, we still haven’t done that,” campaign spokesperson Aisha Yesufu told AFP.

The mass abduction brought the brutality of the Islamist insurgency unprecedented worldwide attention and prompted a viral social media campaign demanding their release backed by personalities from US First Lady Michelle Obama to the actress Angelina Jolie.

Western powers, including the US, have offered logistical and military support to Nigeria’s rescue effort, but there have been few signs of progress so far.

The military has said it knows where the girls are, but has ruled out a rescue effort because of the dangers to the girls’ lives.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in May, has given his generals three months to crush the insurgency, blamed for killing more than 15 000 people and forcing some 1.5 million to flee their homes since 2009.

“It is important that we actually begin to see visible action that leads to information that will persuade us that the girls are being found,” Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister and also a spokeswoman for the campaign, said late on Monday.

“A lot of intelligence work has been said to be going on and so we are waiting with great anxiety especially considering that a three-month deadline has been given to the new security team to end Boko Haram.”

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