Nigeria: Boko Haram kidnaps 91 women and children

Islamic extremists have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages in north-east Nigeria.

Several towns have seen Bring Back Our Girls protests after the abduction of almost 300 girls in April. Picture: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Witnesses said the kidnappings happened in rural Kummabza, 95 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state and the headquarters of a military state of emergency that has failed to curtail near-daily attacks by Boko Haram fighters.

However, Nigeria’s security forces denied the kidnappings had taken place.

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The country’s government and military have been widely criticised for their slow response to the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped on 15 April.

Kummabza resident Aji Khalil said the latest abductions took place on Saturday, in an attack in which four villagers were killed.

Mr Khalil is a member of one of the vigilante groups, armed only with primitive weapons, that have had some success in repelling Boko Haram attacks.

A senior councillor from the village’s Damboa local government also said that abductions had occurred. He said elderly survivors of the attack had walked about 15 miles to the relative safety of other villages.

The new kidnappings add to Nigeria’s crisis over the April incident and the ongoing violence from the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

A strategy to rescue the girls taken in April appears to have reached an impasse. Nigeria’s military has said it knows where they are, but said it fears their abductors would kill them if any military action is taken.

Boko Haram has been demanding the release of detained members in exchange for its hostages, but president Goodluck Jonathan has said he will not consider a swap.

Politics have bedevilled the issue, with many distracted by forthcoming presidential elections in February 2015.

The first lady, Patience Jonathan, and some other supporters have claimed the reports of the April abductions of the schoolgirls were fabricated to discredit her husband’s administration.

Last week, a presidential committee investigating the kidnappings stressed that they did in fact happen, and clarified the number of students who have been kidnapped.

It said there were 395 students at the school at the time; 119 escaped during the siege of the school, another 57 escaped from their captors in the first couple of days of their abduction, leaving 219 still unaccounted for.

This year, the Boko Haram insurgents have embarked on a two-pronged strategy: bombing in cities and a scorched-earth policy in rural areas, where they are devastating villages.

Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, the central city of Jos and the north-eastern state capital of Maiduguri – the birthplace of Boko Haram – have all been bombed.

On Monday, an explosion at a medical college in the northern city of Kano killed at least eight people and wounded 12, police said. It was the third bomb blast in four months in the city.

Also on Saturday, scores of Boko Haram fighters attacked four other villages, near Chibok town from which the girls were kidnapped.

Witnesses said at least 33 villagers were killed, as well as six vigilantes and about two dozen Boko Haram fighters.

The group evolved five years ago from an Islamic sect preaching against the corruption that keeps most Nigerians impoverished despite their country’s oil wealth. It has now become a violent movement that wants to enforce Islamic law across Nigeria – despite the fact that about half the country’s 170 million people are Christians.