(CNN) — A top Nigerian military official believes he knows the whereabouts of girls kidnapped last month, but he says the nation’s military will not use force to try to rescue them, a state news report said Monday.
“We want our girls back. I can tell you that our military can and will do it, but where they are held, can we go there with force?” asked Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh.
“Nobody should say Nigerian military does not know what it is doing; we can’t kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back.”
His comments were reported by the News Agency of Nigeria, a state-run news service.
Badeh continued: “The good news for the parents of the girls is that we know where they are, but we cannot tell you.
“We cannot come and tell you the military secret, just leave us alone, we are working to get the girls back,” he reportedly said.
In response to the news, Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby told CNN U.S. officials were not able to confirm the report.
More than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in northern Nigeria last month by Boko Haram, an act that drew international condemnation.
The terror group abducted an estimated 276 girls on April 14 from a boarding school in Chibok. The Nigerian military suffered an embarrassing setback when it retracted a report that nearly all the kidnapped girls were released.
Dozens escaped, but more than 200 girls are still missing.
Nigerians and others have accused their government of not acting swiftly or efficiently enough to protect the girls seized in the dead of night.
Boko Haram translates as “Western education is a sin” in the Hausa language. The militant group says its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.
Boko Haram’s attacks have intensified in recent years.
By Dana Ford
CNN’s Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.