Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, during a speech to mark Democracy Day on Thursday, vowed to wage “total war” against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls last month and has stepped up violence in the country in recent weeks.

Jonathan said in a televised speech on the fifteenth anniversary of the end of military rule in Nigeria that “international terrorism” threatened the country’s democratic gains, and assured the parents of the kidnapped schoolgirls that his forces would free them. 

"I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability, by waging a total war against terrorism," Jonathan said, adding that he had ordered "a full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorists on our soil."

Earlier this week, the Nigerian government called off a deal to swap the schoolgirls for the militants in custody, according to BBC. On Wednesday, Musa Inuwa, the education commissioner for Borno State reportedly said that four girls kidnapped by the militants had escaped their captors, leaving 219 more girls still missing.

"It was a little after the initial escapes but we doubt it was a recent escape," Inuwa reportedly said, but did not provide further details about their escape. Nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped at a secondary school in the remote northeastern village of Chibok on April 14. About 53 girls escaped their captors shortly after they were kidnapped.

“With the support of Nigerians, our neighbors and the international community, we will reinforce our defense, free our girls and rid Nigeria of terrorists,” Jonathan said Thursday.

The phrase “total war” was used by Idriss Deby, the president of neighboring Chad, following a meeting of West African countries held in Paris earlier in May that discussed a common strategy to fight the Islamist group, which has vowed to fight Western influence and education in the region.

Jonathan also said that he had authorized all security forces to use "any means necessary under the law to ensure that this is done. I assure you ... that these thugs will be driven away. It will not happen overnight, but we will spare no effort to achieve this goal."

The mass abduction of the schoolgirls triggered a support campaign using the Twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, while security experts from the U.S., UK, France and Israel have been assisting Nigerian authorities in the rescue mission.