Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls aged 12 to 15 from a village near one of their strongholds in northeast Nigeria overnight, police and residents said on Tuesday.
Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls from a village near one of the Islamists’ strongholds in north-eastern Nigeria overnight, police said yesterday.
The abduction of the girls, aged 12 to 15, followed the kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls by the militant group last month. Boko Haram has threatened to sell the girls into slavery.
Lazarus Musa, a resident of the village, Warabe, in the Gwoza area, said that armed men had opened fire during the raid.
“They were many and all of them carried guns,” she said. “They came in two vehicles painted in army colour. They started shooting in our village.”
A police source said that the girls were taken away on trucks, along with looted livestock and food.
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram – whose name translates roughly as “Western education is sinful” – threatened on Monday to sell the girls that the group abducted from a secondary school on 14 April “in the marketplace”.
Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday was said to have welcomed a United States offer to send a team to support the Nigerian government’s response to the kidnappings.
US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the American embassy in Nigeria was “prepared to form a co-ordination cell” that would include US military personnel and law enforcement officials with expertise in investigations and hostage negotiations.
Ms Psaki said US secretary of state John Kerry spoke to Mr Jonathan and the president had welcomed the offer of help.
US president Barack Obama has directed Mr Kerry and the state department to “do everything we can to help the Nigerian government find and free these young women”, Ms Psaki added.
Protests have been staged in Nigerian cities over the failure of Mr Jonathan’s administration to take action to return the schoolgirls to their families.
Nigerian police said that some of the 276 girls kidnapped last month remained in captivity, while 53 had escaped. Families and protesters have said more than 200 are still missing.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday said Britain had offered assistance to Nigeria, but stressed that the principal responsibility for dealing with the incident rested with the government in Abuja. He denounced the kidnappings as “disgusting”.
He said: “What has happened here – the actions of Boko Haram in using girls as the spoils of war, the spoils of terrorism – is disgusting, it is immoral, it should show everybody across the world that they should not give any support to such a vile organisation.
“Our hearts go out to the girls’ families.
“I called the Nigerian foreign minister when this first arose back on Good Friday, in the middle of last month, to offer help from Britain [and] to express our concern.”
Mr Hague will host a summit in London next month of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, which he launched in 2012 in response to the issue of mistreatment of women and girls in conflict areas.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: “The latest claims of responsibility from Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria are truly chilling. Their abduction of 270 girls is a depraved and cruel act which has rightly been condemned across the international community.
“Whilst the Nigerian government rightly remains in the lead, I welcome the offer by the UK government of practical assistance to Nigeria’s government.”