The number of Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haram continues to increase, as does global outrage.
Between eight and 11 more teen-aged girls were kidnapped May 4 by the Islamist group, which on April 14 abducted more than 230 schoolgirls, most of them reported to be Christian, from the northeastern town of Chibok.
— #BringBackOurGirlsPH (@TouchPH) May 7, 2014
According to local sources, a group of heavily armed men stormed the village of Warabe, near Gwoza town in Borno state, on the night of Sunday, May 4. They opened fire in the village before taking away eight girls between ages 12 and 15. News reports said the attackers then invaded a village five kilometres away, and abducted three more girls.
On Monday, Boko Haram, which has waged a five-year violent campaign to impose Islamic law across Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the abduction of the students attending school in Chibok.
“I have kidnapped the girls. I will sell them on the market in the name of Allah,” said a man reputed to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a 57-minute video, obtained by the Agence France Presse news agency.
“I’ll sell them as slaves in the name of Allah. There is a market where they sell human beings,” said the man on the video.
“I said that Western education must stop. Girls must leave school and get married,” the man said. “I would give a 12-year-old girl in marriage; I would give in marriage even a 9-year-old girl.”
Last week, some parents and community leaders of Chibok have expressed their fear that the abducted girls were taken abroad, to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, and that some of them have been forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. Other reports given to the BBC say a “bridegroom” of a girl has been spotted: a price of 2000 Naira, or about US $12.50, has been quoted.
Of the 230 girls kidnapped from the Chibok boarding school, at least 165 of them are Christian, according to a list of names and a statement released Sunday, May 4, by a former chairman of an affiliate of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Neither government nor school authorities verified the accuracy of the list.
The statement, issued by evangelist Matthew Owojaiye, said Chibok, in the North-Eastern Nigerian State of Borno, is 90 percent Christian, the implication being that the mass abduction was a religiously motivated crime.
The Chibok mass kidnapping has prompted anger across Africa’s most populous nation. Hundreds of people, mostly women, marched in Abuja, the capital and other major cities such as Kano and Lagos, calling on the government to do more to rescue the girls. President Goodluck Jonathan is under intense pressure, at home and from around the world, to track down the kidnappers and rescue the hostages. U.S. President Barack Obama has offered, and Nigeria has accepted, American military and law-enforcement assistance.
The disappearance of the girls has generated headlines around the world and fueled a social-media storm around the tag #bringbackourgirls – at a moment when Nigeria is preparing to host the World Economic Forum on Africa, a gathering of 900 world business leaders.
On Tuesday, May 6, Egypt’s Al-Azhar mosque, one of the world’s most prominent Sunni institutions of higher learning, issued a statement calling on Boko Haram to release the girls. Boko Haram’s action “does not relate to the noble teachings of Islam in any way,” the statement said.
The UN human rights office warned, on Tuesday, May 6, that the threatened sale into slavery of hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists may constitute a crime against humanity.
“We are deeply concerned about the outrageous claims made in a video believed to be by the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria yesterday, in which he brazenly says he will sell the abducted schoolgirls ‘in the market’ and ‘marry them off’, referring to them as ‘slaves,'” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Navi Pillay.
Yet such kidnappings are not new, Dr. Pogu Chibok, leader of the Chibok Elders Forum, told World Watch Monitor.
”They [Islamists] have been doing it for years,” he said. “They have been kidnapping girls and they have been marring them off to their members forcibly. It is just because of what happened in Chibok, that brought the phenomenon to international arena, and it is now being known by everybody.”
Deadly attacks carried out on an almost daily basis by Boko Haram have claimed more than 1,500 lives since January, raising criticism of the Nigerian army’s ability to deal with the insurgency.
On April 28, four people were killed and several more injured after Boko Haram attacked Gubla village, in Adamawa state. A Church of the Brethren, known as Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria; as well as the pastor’s residence several neighbouring houses were also set on fire by assailants, who sprayed bullets while storming the village around midnight, local sources said.
Despite a year-long state of emergency and the deployment of army to the region, the government seems to have lost control of the country, particularly in northeastern Nigeria, a community leader said in a message sent to World Watch Monitor.
”As I am writing this, we heard that the major road from Madagali to Gowza, down to Bama is under the control of the insurgency, since people cannot travel that road without being kidnapped,” the source said. His name is being withheld to preserve his safety.
”Christians in these areas are suffering everyday as most of them are hiding and sleeping in the bush. The insurgency is moving from one village to the other without facing any resistance. I fear, that if urgent action is not taken, what is happening in Central Africa and Southern Sudan will soon be the vents in north-eastern Nigeria,” the source wrote.