Boko Haram kidnaps more girls in Nigeria
MAIDUGURI // Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls from a village near one of their strongholds in northeastern Nigeria overnight, police and residents said on Tuesday.
The abduction of the girls, aged 12 to 15, follows the kidnapping of more than 200 other schoolgirls by the Islamist militant group last month.
Lazarus Musa, a resident of the village of Warabe, said that armed men had opened fire during the raid.
“They were many, and all of them carried guns. They came in two vehicles painted in army colour. They started shooting in our village,” Mr Musa said by telephone from the village in the hilly Gwoza area, Boko Haram’s main base.
A police source, who could not be named, said the girls were taken away on lorries, along with looted livestock and food.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video released to the media on Monday to sell the girls abducted from a secondary school on April 14 “on the market”.
The kidnappings by the Islamists, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, have shocked a country long inured to the violence around the north-east.
“Many people tried to run behind the mountain but when they heard gun shots, they came back,” Mr Musa said. “The Boko Haram men were entering houses, ordering people out of their houses.”
Boko Haram, the main security threat to Africa’s leading energy producer, is growing bolder and appears better armed than ever. April’s mass kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast, also claimed by Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja, the first attack on the capital in two years.
Another bomb in roughly the same place killed 19 people last week, all events that have embarrassed the government before a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting on Africa in Abuja from May 7-9.
The military’s inability to find the girls in three weeks, has led to protests in the north-east, Abuja and Lagos, the commercial capital.
Parents of the girls kidnapped last month said
Parents of the girls kidnapped last month said their worst fears about their daughters’ fates had been realised after Mr Shekau threatened to sell them as “slaves”.
“All along, we have been imagining what could happen to our daughters in the hands of these heinous people,” Lawal Zanna, whose daughter is among the hostages, said by phone from Chibok.
“Now Shekau has confirmed our fears,” he said.
Global outrage, initially slow to emerge, has been building, including calls by US senators for Washington to intervene.
“We cannot close our eyes to the clear evidence of barbarity unfolding before us in Nigeria,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, her voice breaking as she addressed the Senate on Monday.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday called the kidnappings “disgusting” and said London was offering Nigeria “practical help” to secure the girls’ release.
And the United Nations warned that the sale of the girls could be a crime against humanity.
The parents have criticised the military’s rescue mission, saying there had been a lack of urgency from the outset.
The military said it had launched a major search operation, including in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno, where Boko Haram has well fortified camps.
The US State Department said there were indications the girls had been moved into neighbouring countries, echoing unconfirmed reports from local leaders in Chibok who claimed the hostages had been sold as brides to Islamist fighters in Cameroon and Chad.
Enoch Mark, an outspoken government critic since his daughter was kidnapped, said the military was still not doing nearly enough.
“Boko Haram are not spirits or extraterrestrial creatures that cannot be tracked and subdued,” he said by phone.
“The government should find our girls or seek international assistance if it cannot,” he added. “The agony and trauma are becoming too much for us parents to bear.”
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse
Published: May 6, 2014 04:00 AM