Boko Haram seizes 200 female students
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.
The girls shown in the file photo above were once held at Boko Haram camps before they escaped.