Suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped at least 20 women from nomadic settlements in the Islamists’ stronghold of Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, residents and Nigerian media said on Tuesday.
Villagers from Chibok, the northeastern town where Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in April, told Reuters that Fulani nomads fleeing the Islamists’ raids last week said the kidnappers were demanding cattle in exchange for the women.
“One of them, named Mohammed, told me Boko Haram held the men at gunpoint and moved from hut to hut, taking the women,” said Chibok resident Yahaya Musa.
“The abductors told them to bring a ransom of cows,” said Yakub Chibok, a farmer from the village.
"The Daily Trust newspaper", citing unnamed officials, said the nomadic settlements that were targeted included Bakin Kogi, Garkin Fulani and Rigar Hardo.
The paper said a source at the National Human Rights Commission in Borno state confirmed the kidnapping.
“The insurgents went to various Fulani settlements and picked the women,” he said. “Our sources indicated that the women were whisked [into] the Sambisa Forest."
The paper quoted Mahe Bula, a resident of Damboa, as saying the militants forced young Fulani women into vehicles at gunpoint.
“From what I gathered, the insurgents did not take old women and children," he said. "They picked girls, even though most of them are married."
Founded around 2002 in Maiduguri in Borno state, Boko Haram – which means "Western education is sinful" – has been waging an increasingly deadly insurgency to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria since 2009.
Timeline: Boko Haram
The group's kidnappings and deadly attacks have continued in the wake of an army offensive and an international outcry over the kidnapped Chibok girls, increasing the political pressure on a government struggling to contain the Islamist insurgency.
The girls' disappearance has triggered global outrage, in part due to a social media campaign – #BringBackOurGirls on Facebook and Twitter – that has won the support of high-profile figures including US First Lady Michelle Obama and Pope Francis.
President Goodluck Jonathan has accepted US military and intelligence help to help find the girls, 57 of whom have since escaped.
But the militants have responded merely by multiplying their attacks. Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers slaughtered hundreds of civilians in attacks on four villages in northeastern Nigeria last week.
Nigeria’s government and army say they are doing all they can to free the schoolgirls and that they know where they are being held, but say any bid to free the girls by force could lead to them being killed by their captors.
The government has also ruled out exchanging them for Islamist prisoners being held in Nigeria, as demanded by Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, in a video last month. Shekau has also threatened to sell the girls.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-10