The fate of dozens of missing Nigerian schoolgirls still hangs in the balance. A much-feared Islamist militant group Boko Haram abducted 129 girls in a raid carried out at a state school in northeastern Nigeria. The young girls were kidnapped early Tuesday morning from the secondary school that is located in Chipok. The students were staying overnight at the institution to study for their final exams.
The militant group is still holding 85 girls, while 44 others escaped, the state government announced on Saturday. Prior reports had claimed that the Nigerian military had managed to rescue all but eight of the abducted girls from Boko Haram. But parents and school officials quickly and angrily disputed this. The state school’s principal, Asabe Kwambura said that the Nigerian military’s claims were baseless and not true.
The kidnapping in the heartland of the Boko Haram insurgency has garnered a lot of attention in the most populous country in Africa. Shocking episodes of violence, from unrestrained massacres to indiscriminate shootings, have already ravaged the African country. But the mass abduction of the teenage girls has struck a deep fear in Nigeria. The families and state officials are afraid that if the girls are not rescued soon, they will be used as “sex slaves and cooks.”
Boko Haram, or The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, are a violent rebel group that is fighting to create a breakaway Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The group has constantly remained in the news for their brutal methods. They have attacked religious institutions and schools, carried out bombings, and murdered their opponents in cold blood.
In the recent raid on the secondary school, the militants first attacked the village and set some buildings on fire. After using this as a distraction, they turned their guns on a soldier and a police officer, who had been posted to guard the school. The militant group, which arrived in a convoy of 60 vehicles, including 40 motorcycles, took advantage of the early morning darkness and entered the school. They herded the girls out of bed and took them away in trucks and vans.
According to Kashim Shettima, the governor of Borno State, some of the girls escaped their captors by jumping off the truck, while a few others slipped away from the forest, where they were being held. Speaking from the state capital, Maiduguri, Shettima said, “This is the most traumatic incident yet.” He indicated that there was an ongoing military-led operation in the vicinity of the school to track down the perpetrators and free the remaining girls.
To many Nigerians, this large-scale abduction of the young girls is another indication of the Nigerian military’s inability to protect the country’s citizens. Boko Haram appears to have an upper hand in this tussle for turf in Nigeria. Delivering another blow to the military’s efforts and image, Boko Haram set off a huge bomb in the capital city Abuja on the same day as the kidnappings in Chipok. The bomb, which targeted a bus station filled with early morning commuters, killed 75 people. Releasing a 28-minute video, Abubakar Shekau, the elusive leader of Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing.
As the oil-rich country struggles against a wide array of violence unleashed by the insurgents, the families of the young abducted Nigerian girls wait in fear for news about their loved ones. Inuwa Kubo, a Borno State education commissioner said in a statement late on Saturday, “We continually pray that all our students return in good health.”
By Monalisa Gangopadhyay