Boko Haram kidnap more than 90 people in Nigeria

Vigilante leader says more than 60 women and girls are among the abductees

An activists in the protest group Bring back our Girls at  a rally in Abuja, Nigeria. Photograph: EPA/Hannibal Hanschke

An activists in the protest group Bring back our Girls at a rally in Abuja, Nigeria. Photograph: EPA/Hannibal Hanschke

Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 01:00

More than 60 women and girls have been abducted by Islamist militants from a cluster of villages in northern Nigeria, according to a local vigilante leader, two months after an international outcry over the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in the same area.

Aji Khalil, the leader of a local group set up to defend villagers, said Boko Haram militants also had also taken about 30 boys and young men. “Some suspected Boko Haram members invaded . . . and kidnapped 91 persons. More than 60 married women and young girls, as well as children and young men, were forcefully taken away by Boko Haram terrorists. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot,” he told reporters.

A local government official in Borno state, who requested anonymity, reported similar figures. “More than 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists,” he said. The village of Kummabza was destroyed, and survivors fled. However, the abductions were not confirmed by Nigerian defence officials.

The kidnapping in April of more than 200 girls and young women from a boarding school in Chibok, also in Borno state, focused world attention on Boko Haram’s activities, and prompted western governments to offer military assistance to Nigeria to tackle the insurgency.

American drones, counter- terrorism experts and advanced surveillance technology from the US and the UK have been deployed in Nigeria in recent weeks. France, Israel and Turkey have also offered assistance.

Michelle Obama was among millions of people who backed a global Twitter campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, amid fears that those abducted would be used as sex slaves or trafficked to other countries.

The government of Goodluck Jonathan has said it knows where the abducted Chibok students are being held, but it fears militants would kill them in the event of any rescue attempt.

Last week, a presidential committee investigating the abductions said there had been 395 students at the school: 119 escaped during the attack, and another 57 escaped in the first couple of days of their abduction, leaving 219 unaccounted for.

Boko Haram wants to create an Islamist state in northern Nigeria. It frequently carries out bombings, arson attacks and abductions. Amnesty International estimates more than 1,500 people were killed in northeast Nigeria in the first three months of this year, but intensifying attacks since then may have doubled that number.

The UN agency for refugees, UNHCR, said last week about 650,000 Nigerians had been displaced in the north of the country as a result of Boko Haram attacks. – (Guardian service)