KANO, Nigeria – Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped 8 more girls from Nigeria’s embattled northeast, residents said on Tuesday, May 6, after the extremist group’s leader claimed responsibility for abducting more than 200 schoolgirls last month.
The girls were seized by gunmen in the village of Warabe as global outrage grew three weeks after the mass kidnapping in the nearby town of Chibok, which the UN warned may be a crime against humanity.
Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau said the extremist Islamist group was holding the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok on April 14 as “slaves,” and threatened to “sell them in the market,” in a video obtained by Agence France-Presse on Monday.
The parents of those taken from Chibok said Shekau’s video had made an already horrifying situation even worse.
“All along, we have been imagining what could happen to our daughters in the hands of these heinous people,” Lawal Zanna, the mother of one the hostages, told AFP by phone from Chibok.
“Now Shekau has confirmed our fears,” he said.
(READ: Nigeria parents demand answers after military says hostages freed)
The latest kidnappings also took place in Borno state, the home base of the Islamist group.
Abdullahi Sani, a resident of Warabe, said gunmen had moved “door to door, looking for girls,” late Sunday.
“They forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15,” he added, in an account confirmed by other witnesses.
He said the attackers did not kill anyone, which was “surprising”, and suggested that abducting girls was the motive for the attack.
Another Warabe resident, Peter Gombo, told AFP that the military and police had not yet deployed to the area.
“We have no security here. If the gunmen decide to pick our own girls nobody can stop them.”
Initially slow to emerge, global outrage has flared over the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls when Boko Haram stormed their school and loaded them onto trucks.
Several managed to escape but over 220 girls are still being held, according to police.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday called the kidnappings “disgusting” while US senators urged Washington to intervene.
“We cannot close our eyes to the clear evidence of barbarity unfolding before us in Nigeria,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, her voice breaking as she addressed the Senate on Monday.
And the United Nations warned that the sale of the girls could be a crime against humanity.
Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar which runs the main Sunni Islamic university in the region, said harming the girls “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam.”
Angelina Jolie, speaking in Paris about her latest film “Maleficent”, condemned the Chibok abductions as “unthinkable cruelty and evil.”
Since the attack, parents have criticised the military’s rescue mission, saying there had been a lack of urgency from the outset.
The military said it had launched a major search operation, including in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno, where Boko Haram has well fortified camps.
The US State Department said there were indications the girls had been moved into neighbouring countries, echoing unconfirmed reports from local leaders in Chibok who claimed the hostages had been sold as brides to Islamist fighters in Cameroon and Chad.
Enoch Mark, an outspoken government critic since his daughter was kidnapped in Chibok, said the military was still not doing nearly enough.
“Boko Haram are not spirits or extra-terrestrial creatures that cannot be tracked and subdued,” he told AFP by phone.
“The government should find our girls or seek international assistance if it cannot,” he added. “The agony and trauma are becoming too much for us parents to bear.”
President under pressure
Pressure on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been building since the kidnapping, which came hours after a car bombing ripped through a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Abuja killing 75 people, the deadliest attack ever in the capital.
A copycat bombing at the same station killed 19 people on May 1.
Jonathan had hoped that a World Economic Forum summit which opens in Abuja on Wednesday would highlight Nigeria’s economic progress.
But the recent violence has put public focus on Boko Haram, with many questioning whether Nigeria has the capacity to contain the insurgents who have killed thousands since 2009.
The group, which says it wants to create an Islamic state in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, has vowed to carryout further attacks across the country, including in the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s largest oil industry.
Speaking before news of the latest kidnappings emerged, Mark warned the government that failing to rescue his daughter and her classmates could serve to embolden the Islamist extremists.
“The government should note that this may just be the beginning of more abductions and anarchy if it does not rescue these girls,” he said.
(READ: Nigeria president vows to free abducted girls)
“It is Chibok today, but who knows where it will happen tomorrow? It may not end with Chibok.” – Rappler.com
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