Boko Haram seizes 200 fe­male stu­dents

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - From Hamza Idris, Ya­haya Ibrahim (Maiduguri), Ron­ald Mu­tum & Ibrahim Kabiru Sule (Abuja)

Gun­men sus­pected to be Boko Haram mil­i­tants on Mon­day night ab­ducted about 200 teenage girls from the Govern­ment Girls Sec­ondary School in Chi­bok, Borno State.

The gun­men ar­rived in many ve­hi­cles, and packed the stu­dents in a bus and pick-up trucks.

Hun­dreds of stu­dents were in the school when the in­sur­gents struck, and nearly all of them were taken, ac­cord­ing to a girl who es­caped and a fa­ther of a miss­ing stu­dent.

Some of those taken fell off mov­ing ve­hi­cles while oth­ers fled af­ter the ve­hi­cle they were be­ing taken in broke down.

Sources said the Boko Haram in­sur­gents dis­guised as soldiers and told the stu­dents they were there to evac­u­ate them be­cause of a threat of at­tack.

“They gath­ered the stu­dents and told them that there was a threat from Boko Haram on im­mi­nent at­tack on the school,” one source said.

“They told the girls that they would be evac­u­ated to a safe place so that they would not be kid­napped, and the vul­ner­a­ble girls were con­vinced.

“How­ever, while they were be­ing taken away, they sensed dan­ger from the ut­ter­ances and body lan­guage of the ter­ror­ists. That was when some of them jumped out of the lorry which was go­ing deep into the bush.”

Most of the ab­ducted girls are be­tween the ages of 16 and 18, Daily Trust learnt.

Daily Trust learnt also that in­sur­gents in their dozens, armed with guns and rock­et­pro­pelled grenades, at­tacked Chi­bok town it­self where they burnt many houses, shops and ve­hi­cles.

A sol­dier and a po­lice­man were re­port­edly shot dead by the in­sur­gents.

One of the girls who es­caped re­counted her ex­pe­ri­ence in a BBC Hausa ra­dio in­ter­view. She said one of the cars broke down and the in­sur­gents “set it ablaze and trans­ferred us to an­other car, car­ry­ing food items, some to a car that car­ried petrol, and oth­ers were put in an empty bus. Some of them es­corted us on mo­tor­bikes.

“Af­ter we passed three vil­lages in the for­est, one of the cars stopped in the for­est. Some of them and those on the mo­tor­bikes went back to fix the car, but our car went ahead.

“Upon see­ing that, some girls close to the door dropped out of the car and run into the bush. We also fol­lowed them into the bush, where we stayed till the fol­low­ing morn­ing be­fore we headed back to our homes.”

A man, who said his daugh­ter is among those taken, also spoke to BBC Hausa ra­dio, say­ing more than 300 girls were ab­ducted and only a few of them es­caped.

“In fact all those SS 3 stu­dents writ­ing their fi­nal year ex­am­i­na­tion of WAEC have been ab­ducted. Only few of them thrown out of the cars man­aged to es­cape. But all the rest have been ab­ducted.

“When I per­son­ally fol­lowed up the route, I found two girls thrown away from the cars. This (yes­ter­day’s) morn­ing around 9am, I reached one vil­lage along the way, where they warned me not to pro­ceed be­cause they told me Boko Haram mem­bers were just nearby.”

Is­maila Musa, a school teacher from Chi­bok, told jour­nal­ists in Maiduguri that the lorry used in ab­duct­ing the girls was ini­tially loaded with grains but was snatched from the driver who was pass­ing through the area.

This is the first ma­jor at­tack on Chi­bok town, even though many com­mu­ni­ties around it have been sacked. The town is the head­quar­ters of Chi­bok Lo­cal Govern­ment Area, and is sit­u­ated about 130 kilo­me­ters south-west of Maiduguri.

‘Troops in pur­suit’

The Borno State govern­ment is yet to give a state­ment on the ab­duc­tion, but some of­fi­cials said Gover­nor Kashim Shet­tima was shocked and short of words.

State Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sioner Malam Inuwa Kubo could not be reached for com­ments.

Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Lawan Tanko con­firmed that there was an in­ci­dent in Chi­bok, but said they were still com­pil­ing de­tails of what hap­pened.

“Yes, there was an at­tack in Chi­bok but we are yet to have de­tails,” he said.

When con­tacted, the Di­rec­tor of De­fence In­for­ma­tion, Ma­jor Gen­eral Chris Oluko­lade, said, “A group of ter­ror­ists yes­ter­day night at­tacked Govern­ment Girls Sec­ondary School Chi­bok. About 129 stu­dents in the school at the time of the at­tack are said to have been ab­ducted but some of them ac­tu­ally suc­ceeded in es­cap­ing from the ab­duc­tors. Troops are still on search and res­cue mis­sion trail­ing the ter­ror­ists.”

Daily Trust re­ports that girls and women had been taken by in­sur­gents in the past, but this is the first time that such num­bers would be taken at a time since the in­sur­gency be­gan years ago.

Dur­ing their at­tack on the Federal Govern­ment Col­lege Buni Yadi in Yobe State in Fe­bru­ary, in­sur­gents had killed many male stu­dents but told the fe­male stu­dents to go home and get mar­ried.

In his most re­cent video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had threat­ened per­sis­tent at­tacks on ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, in­sist­ing that Western ed­u­ca­tion is for­bid­den.

The ab­ducted girls were writ­ing their fi­nal-year se­nior sec­ondary school cer­tifi­cate ex­am­i­na­tions.

A top se­cu­rity source said au­thor­i­ties at GGSS Chi­bok di­rected the girls to go and write their ex­ams with­out ad­e­quate clear­ance from se­cu­rity agencies.

“The truck that was con­vey­ing the girls broke down in the bush be­fore it reached its des­ti­na­tion. We are now try­ing to lo­cate where the girls were taken to,” he said.

A res­i­dent of Chi­bok, Ly­dia Ibrahim, con­firmed to our cor­re­spon­dent on phone that three of her cousins writ­ing SSCE at the school were among those kid­napped.

“We have been look­ing for them since the time we heard of the in­ci­dent but there is no in­for­ma­tion…We are all wor­ried about their safety be­cause these are in­no­cent girls,” she said.

How some es­caped

A par­ent of one of the ab­ducted girls said about 20 of them jumped out of the mov­ing truck with­out the knowl­edge of the ab­duc­tors.

“My daugh­ter is not that lucky but other girls hung unto branches of trees as the truck passed through the bush. They came down from the trees when the con­voy of the ter­ror­ists left and found their way back to Chi­bok and other vil­lages,” she said.

The ab­duc­tion was car­ried out weeks af­ter the Borno State govern­ment closed all sec­ondary schools in the state af­ter se­cu­rity re­ports in­di­cated that Boko Haram fighters were plan­ning to at­tack in­sti­tu­tions.

How­ever, fi­nal-year stu­dents were asked to re­port in some schools in Maiduguri and Biu to write their ex­ams.

A cleric, Us­man Malam Us­man, said the ab­duc­tion of nearly 200 girls at a time is the height of im­punity.

“We have a dif­fer­ent kind of ter­ror­ism here and only God can save us. I doubt much if there is any­where in the world, no mat­ter how law­less the place is, where 200 girls would be ab­ducted with­out a trace. Only God knows what would hap­pen to them,” he said.

Anger at FG

Mean­while, res­i­dents of Maiduguri have ex­pressed anger over what they called “non­cha­lant” at­ti­tude of the Federal Govern­ment to­wards the se­cu­rity chal­lenges in Borno and Yobe states.

James Manassa, a civil ser­vant in Maiduguri, said there is “grand con­spir­acy” to ground so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the two states that have been the cen­tre of in­sur­gency in the last five years.

“Yes, there is state of emer­gency on ground but we are all aware that the Federal Govern­ment has de­lib­er­ately re­fused to re­lease fight­ing equip­ment for the soldiers on ground.

“Sam­bisa for­est is in Borno State and not in the moon but the soldiers could not get into it be­cause they have in­fe­rior weapons while our people are dy­ing ev­ery day. Now our daugh­ters have been ab­ducted and the per­pe­tra­tors would go free,” he said.

Khalil Sule, a re­tired mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, al­leged that most of the equip­ment de­ployed to fight ter­ror­ism in the North­east are ob­so­lete.

“Most of the ar­moured tankers, the RPGs and AK-47 ri­fles are not ser­vice­able and that is why the soldiers are run­ning away from bat­tle grounds. The ter­ror­ists are not far and ev­ery­body knows that they can be done with in less than one week if there is the se­ri­ous­ness,” he said.

PHOTO: BBC Hausa web­site IN­FO­GRAPH­ICS UKEOMA MODESTUS

The girls shown in the file photo above were once held at Boko Haram camps be­fore they es­caped.

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