Voice of America (Washington, DC)

24 June 2014

Nigeria: Suspected Boko Haram Militants Kidnap Nearly 100 in Nigeria

Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and young girls, as well as 31 boys, in restive northeast Nigeria, a local official and a vigilante leader said on Tuesday.

The group was kidnapped in the last week during a Boko Haram attack on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, which left at least 30 dead, according to residents who escaped the violence.

Nigerian security forces denied the kidnappings. Nigeria's defense headquarters in Abuja said in a tweet late on Monday that it was "yet to confirm the several reports on the abduction of girls in Borno as at now."

Defense spokesmen were not immediately available for comment when contacted by the French news agency AFP on Tuesday.

Kummabza resident Aji Khalil said Tuesday the abductions took place Saturday in an attack during which four villagers were killed. Khalil is a member of one of the vigilante groups that have had some success in repelling Boko Haram attacks with primitive weapons.

Khalil said suspected Boko Haram militants took about 60 married women and girls and 31 boys between June 19-22 from the villages of Kummabza, Yaga and Dagu, all in Borno state, as reported by local Nigerian media.

"Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot," Khalil said.

Village destroyed

A senior officer in the Damboa local government, who asked for his name to be withheld as he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said: "Over 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists.

"The village was also destroyed. Some of the survivors who do not have means of transporting themselves, especially old women and men, trekked to Lassa, in the Askira-Uba local government area of Borno state, 25 kilometers (away)," the officer said.

Another resident, who fled to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, and also requested anonymity, told AFP: "Over 30 men were killed during the raid, which lasted for nearly four days. Most men fled for their lives.

"The attackers held the whole village hostage for the next three days," the resident said.

There was no way to safely and independently confirm the report from Kummabza, 150 kilometers (95 miles) from Maiduguri, headquarters of a military state of emergency that has failed to curtail near-daily attacks by Boko Haram fighters.

Borno violence

Major attacks blamed on Nigeria's Boko Haram

2009

July - Attacks prompt government crackdown in Bauchi and Maiduguri; 800 people killed

2010

December - Bombings in central Nigeria and church attacks in the northeast kill 86

2011

June - Attack on a bar in Maiduguri kills 25

August - Suicide bomber kills 23 at U.N. building in Abuja

November - Bombings in Damaturu and Potiskum kill 65

December - Christmas Day bombings across Nigeria kill 39

2012

January -- Gun and bomb attacks in Kano up to 200

February - Maiduguri market attack kills 30

June - Suicide car bombings at three churches kill 21

July - Attacks in Plateau state kill dozens, including two politicians at a funeral for the victims

2013

February - French family kidnapped in Cameroon, held hostage for two months

April - Fighting with troops in Baga kills up to 200; residents say troops set deadly fires

May - Attacks in Bama kill more than 50

July - Gunmen kill 30 at a school in Yobe

August - Gunmen kill 44 at a mosque outside Maiduguri

September - Gunmen kill 40 students at a post-secondary school in Yobe

December - Militants attack military installations in Maiduguri

2014

January - Militants kill 74 people and burn down a village in attacks in Borno and Adamawa

February - Gunmen kill as many as 60 in attack on school in Yobe

April - Militants abduct 276 schoolgirls

June - Gunmen kill hundreds in massacres in Borno

The abductions are the latest to take place in Borno, which has been worst affected by the Islamist group's increasingly deadly, five-year insurgency.

Nigeria's government and military have attracted widespread criticism for their slow response to the abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped April 15.

Boko Haram has been demanding the release of detained members in exchange for its hostages, but President Goodluck Jonathan has said he will not consider a swap.

A strategy to rescue the girls appears to have reached an impasse. Nigeria's military has said it knows where they are but fears their abductors would kill them if any military action is taken.

Politics have also bedeviled the issue, with many distracted by upcoming presidential elections in February 2015.

The first lady, Patience Jonathan, and some other supporters have claimed the reports of the April abductions of the schoolgirls were fabricated to discredit her husband's administration.

April 15 kidnapping

Last week, a presidential committee investigating the kidnappings stressed that they did in fact happen and clarified the number of students who have been kidnapped.

It said there were 395 students at the school, 119 escaped during the siege of the school, another 57 escaped in the first couple of days of their abduction, leaving 219 unaccounted for.

This year, the Boko Haram insurgents have embarked on a two-pronged strategy - bombing in cities and a scorched-earth policy in rural areas where they are devastating villages.

Nigeria's capital, Abuja, the central city of Jos and the northeastern state capital of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, all have been bombed.

On Monday, an explosion at a medical college in the northern city of Kano killed at least eight people and wounded 12, police said. It was the third bomb blast in four months in Kano, Nigeria's second city.

Also on Saturday, the same day as the latest abductions, scores of Boko Haram fighters attacked four other villages, near Chibok town from which the girls were kidnapped. Witnesses said at least 33 villagers were killed as well as six vigilantes and about two dozen Boko Haram fighters.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.

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