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‘More than 60 women and girls kidnapped in Nigeria’

AFP (archive photo of Nigerian soldiers on patrol in the north of Borno state)

More than 60 women and girls have been abducted in the past week in Nigeria's Borno state, the same region where Boko Haram militants seized 276 schoolgirls in April, a local official said Tuesday. The government has yet to confirm the kidnappings.

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The victims were taken during a series of attacks on the village of Kummabza in Borno state’s Damboa district that left at least 30 dead, according to residents who escaped the violence.

In a tweet posted late on Monday, Nigeria’s defence headquarters in the capital Abuja said that it had "yet to confirm the several reports on the abduction of girls in Borno as [of] now".

A senior officer in the Damboa local government, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said that "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 [the] means of transporting themselves, especially old women and men, trekked to Lassa, in the Askira-Uba local government area of Borno state, 25 kilometres (away). Others went to Gulak in Adamawa state, where they are now taking refuge," he said.

The abductions are the latest to take place in Borno, which has been plagued by an increasingly deadly, five-year insurgency by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

On April 14, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 teenaged girls from their dormitories at a boarding school in Chibok, sparking global outrage.

At least 20 young mothers from a nomadic settlement in and around the village of Garkin Fulani were also reported kidnapped on June 7, although it has since been claimed that the disappearances could be due to annual migration.

Still no confirmation

The secretary of the Damboa local government, Modu Mustapha, neither confirmed nor denied the abductions, while the authority's chairman, Alamin Mohammed, was not immediately available.

Officials said they were afraid to speak out because of the controversy surrounding the abduction of the schoolgirls in Chibok, which has seen Nigeria's government criticised for its initial slow response to the incident.

But Aji Khalil, a local vigilante leader said, "Over 60 women were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. They were forcefully taken away by Boko Haram terrorists. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot."

Another resident, who fled to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri and also requested anonymity, said more than 30 men were killed in the attack, which lasted nearly four days.

"Most men fled for their lives. The attackers held the whole village hostage,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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