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Nigeria: Dozens Abducted in Possible Boko Haram Attack

HomeWARNigeria: Dozens Abducted in Possible Boko Haram Attack

GAMBORU NGALA, Nigeria — In a chilling echo of the 2014 Chibok kidnappings that sparked global outrage, dozens of women and girls are feared to have been abducted in northeastern Nigeria by the brutal militants known as Boko Haram, officials said on Wednesday.

The mass kidnapping occurred several days ago in the remote town of Gamboru Ngala, which sits precariously along the shores of Lake Chad near the borders with Cameroon and Chad. But details have only recently trickled out because the jihadists have systematically destroyed telecom infrastructure in the area, cutting the town off from communication with the outside world.

According to Mohamed Malick Fall, the United Nations’ resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, over 200 people are estimated to have been seized during the brazen daylight attack on the town’s camp for displaced persons. The victims were primarily women and girls who had already been forced to flee their homes due to Boko Haram’s reign of terror across the region.

“This is a stark reminder that women and girls are among those most affected by the conflict in northeast Nigeria,” Mr. Fall said in a statement condemning the mass abduction and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

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He expressed sympathy for the anguished families and urged Nigerian authorities to provide safer economic opportunities to reduce the risks displaced people face, noting that the victims had ventured outside the camp to collect firewood for cooking or selling when they were captured.

The governor’s office in Borno state, whose capital Maiduguri lies over 100 miles from the attacked town, confirmed the kidnappings took place and said a response team had been deployed to the area. But they declined to provide further details, likely for operational security reasons.

It remained unclear precisely how many people were abducted, with reports ranging from several dozen to over 200. One resident who escaped put the number at 113. Shehu Mada, a leader of the local anti-jihadist militia, told Agence France-Presse that a headcount found 47 women were taken while others managed to flee.

Whatever the final toll, the mass abduction represents a brazen strike at the heart of the Nigerian government’s claims that Boko Haram is a defeated force. Just last month, the Borno state government asserted that 95% of the group’s fighters were either dead or had surrendered after a long military offensive.

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But the kidnapping demonstrated that an offshoot known as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, or ISWAP, remains deadly and operational, undercutting any narrative of the insurgency’s demise. ISWAP was blamed for the attack by Mr. Mada, the militia leader.

Boko Haram’s orginal faction gained notoriety in 2014 when its fighters seized 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in an attack that sparked the #BringBackOurGirls movement and drew global condemnation. While most of those girls were eventually released after negotiations, over 100 remain missing nearly a decade later, their fate unknown.

The new mass kidnapping has reignited fears of a return to Boko Haram’s peak of systematic brutality against civilians as a core tactic in its effort to establish an Islamic caliphate across Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north. Since launching its insurgency in 2009, the militants have killed over 40,000 people and displaced over 2 million more, according to estimates.

For the people of Gamboru Ngala, the abductions have snapped them back into the living nightmare they have endured for years. “It was on Sunday that we got information that over 200 displaced people went to get firewood but unfortunately Boko Haram kidnapped them, allowing only the very young and very old to return,” said one resident who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

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The resident, speaking to the BBC, described a scene of horror as militants arrived in trucks and motorbikes, rounding up the women and girls. Those unable to walk or very elderly were left behind.

While the motives behind the kidnapping remain unclear, in the past Boko Haram has used abducted women and children as forced laborers, sex slaves, fighters, and suicide bombers. Some are taken as wives for the militants. Many suffer brutal abuse and are killed.

Nigeria’s government has promised military action to try to free the kidnapped victims, but past experience has shown such missions can prove difficult and risky. Roads to the isolated town have already been shut down in anticipation of a potential rescue attempt.

For the relatives of the missing, however, waiting for their loved ones’ return is almost too much to bear. As one woman at the Gamboru Ngala camp told Agence France-Presse, “I don’t know what to do, I just can’t sleep.” Her daughter, she said, was among those seized by the insurgents. “We just want her back.”

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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