As a team of US experts deploys to Nigeria in a bid to locate more than 200 schoolgirls abducted last month by Boko Haram militants, news has spread that an additional eleven girls have been kidnapped in the northern region of the country. News of these latest kidnappings comes just one day after Boko Haram’s leader confirmed the militant group’s involvement and threatened to sell the girls.
On Monday, the leader of Boko Haram confirmed that the militant group was behind the abduction of over 200 girls who were kidnapped three weeks ago in northeaster Nigeria. In the new 57-minute video released Monday, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau added “I will sell them in the market, by Allah….Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his instructions.” In the video, Shekau also notes that the girls should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married.
On the night of 14 April, Boko Haram militants stormed an all-girls secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno State. The girls, aged 16 to 18, were forced onto trucks and taken into the remote areas along the border with Cameroon. Although fifty-three of the girls managed to escape from the militants, according to police officials 223 are still being held. Unconfirmed sources in Nigeria have indicated that the girls have been taken across the border and into neighbouring countries, including Chad and Cameroon, with some reports indicating that some of the girls had been forced to marry their abductors, who paid a nominal bride price of US $12 (£7).
On Tuesday, residents reported that suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped eleven more girls from Nigeria’s embattled north eastern region. According to one eyewitness, the militants arrived in two trucks and “…moved door to door looking for girls,” adding that “they forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15.” Another eyewitness reported that the militants also seized animals and food from the village. According to a local government official, “after leaving Warabe the gunmen stormed the Wala village which is five kilometres away and abducted three more girls.” The latest kidnappings occurred late Sunday in the villages of Warabe and Wala, which are located in the Gwoza area of Borno State. Due to poor communication in the area, details of the latest kidnappings did not emerge until Tuesday. The area around the two villages is known to be a stronghold of the militant group.
While Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency in northern Nigeria has over the past year intensified, the attack and kidnapping of the girls has shocked Nigerians and has resulted in an international outcry for their safe return. Since the launch of military operations in three northern states last May, Boko Haram, which continues to be the main security threat in the country and regionally, has grown bolder in its attacks and has extended its reach. The April 14 kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed seventy-five people near Abuja, the first attack to be carried out in the capital city in two years. More than two weeks later, the militants, who say they are fighting to create an Islamic state, carried out a second bomb attack, killing 19 people and wounding 34 in the suburb of Nyanya.
The girl’s abduction has been a huge embarrassment for the government, which has failed to locate them, while Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has been under increasing pressure to act against the militant group. The latest incidents will likely overshadow the country’s first hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa, which is set to take place on May 7 – 9 in Abuja.
In the wake of increasing frustration over the Nigerian government’s failure to locate the 223 missing schoolgirls, the United States has accepted an offer to aid in the search.
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama confirmed the deployment of a team of US experts, stating that the group is comprised of personnel from the military, law enforcement and other agencies, adding that he hopes the kidnapping may galvanise the international community to take action against Boko Haram. US Secretary of State John Kerry also indicated Tuesday that Washington will set up a co-ordination cell at its embassy in Abuja which will include US military personnel, law enforcement officials and experts in hostage situations.
While US officials have stated that the first group of abducted girls, who are aged between 16 and 18, may have already been smuggled over Nigeria’s porous borders into countries such as Chad and Cameroon, officials from the two neighbouring states have indicated that at this time they do not believe the girls are in their countries.
The United Kingdom has also offered to help Nigerian authorities in their search. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that the UK would assist the Nigerian government if they received such a request however what form the assistance would take was not specified by Hague.