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Protester: 1st Lady orders arrests

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LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A leader of a protest march for 276 missing schoolgirls said that Nigeria’s First Lady ordered her and another protest leader arrested Monday, expressed doubts there was any kidnapping and accused them of belonging to the Islamic insurgent group blamed for the abductions.

Saratu Angus Ndirpaya of Chibok town said State Security Service agents drove her and protest leader Naomi Mutah Nyadar to a police station Monday after an all-night meeting at the presidential villa in Abuja, the capital. She said police immediately released her but that Nyadar remains in detention. The national police spokesman referred a journalist to the spokeswoman for police in Abuja. Reached on the phone, the spokeswoman said she was driving and could not immediately respond.

Ndirpaya says First Lady Patience Jonathan accused them of fabricating the abductions. “She told so many lies, that we just wanted the government of Nigeria to have a bad name, that we did not want to support her husband’s rule,” she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

She said other women at the meeting cheered and chanted “yes, yes,” when Mrs. Jonathan accused them of belonging to the Boko Haram terrorist network. “They said we are Boko Haram, and that Mrs. Nyadar is a member of Boko Haram.” She said Nyadar and herself do not have daughters among those abducted, but are supporting the mothers of kidnapped daughters.

The mass abduction and failure to rescue the girls now in a fourth week of captivity is a source of deep embarrassment to Jonathan and his government, which is accused of insensitivity to the girls’ plight and not doing enough to rescue them.

In a televised “media chat” Sunday night, Jonathan promised his administration is doing everything possible. On Friday he created a presidential committee to go to the affected Borno state to work with the community on a strategy for the release.

Asked if his government was negotiating with the abductors, Jonathan said it was impossible to negotiate with people who do not identify themselves, and noted that Boko Haram have not claimed responsibility for the mass abduction, though some girls who have escaped from them said their captors identified themselves as Boko Haram.

Police say more than 300 girls and young women were abducted April 15 from Chibok school and that 276 remain in captivity.

Associated Press writer Lekan Oyekanmi contributed to this report from Abuja, Nigeria.