Women take part in a protest in Lagos demanding the release
of abducted secondary school girls. REUTERS/Akintunde
Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls from a
village near one of the Islamists' strongholds in northeastern
Nigeria overnight, police and residents said.
The abduction of the girls, aged 12 to 15, follows the
kidnapping of more than 200 other schoolgirls by the militant
group last month, whom it has threatened to sell into
Lazarus Musa, a resident of the village of Warabe, told
Reuters that armed men had opened fire during the raid.
"They were many, and all of them carried guns. They came in
two vehicles painted in army colour. They started shooting in
our village," Musa said by telephone from the village in the
hilly Gwoza area, Boko Haram's main base.
A police source, who asked not to be identified, said the
girls were taken away on trucks, along with looted livestock
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video
released to the media on Monday to sell the girls abducted
from a secondary school on April 14 "on the market".
The kidnappings by the Islamists, who say they are fighting
for an Islamic state in Nigeria, have shocked a country long
inured to the violence around the northeast.
They have also embarrassed the government before a World
Economic Forum (WEF) meeting on Africa, the annual gathering
of the wealthy and powerful, in Abuja from May 7-9.
Nigerian officials had hoped the event would highlight their
country's potential as Africa's hottest investment
destination since it became the continent's biggest economy
from a GDP recalculation in March, but the forum has been
overshadowed by the crisis over the girls, whose whereabouts
remain a mystery.
That has thrown the government's failings on national
security into the spotlight just when it sought to parade its
achievements such as power privatisation and economic
stability to top global business people and politicians.
Boko Haram, the main security threat to Africa's leading
energy producer, is growing bolder and appears better armed
"Many people tried to run behind the mountain but when they
heard gun shots, they came back," Musa said. "The Boko Haram
men were entering houses, ordering people out of their
In a separate attack early on Monday, suspected Boko Haram
gunmen shot or hacked to death at least 13 people in a raid
on a market town in the northeast, a survivor said.
April's mass kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast,
also claimed by Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of
Abuja, the first attack on the capital in two years. Another
bomb in roughly the same place killed 19 people last week.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan welcomed a U.S. offer to
send an American team to Nigeria to support the government's
efforts to find the girls, the U.S. State Department said on
The United Nations warned Boko Haram that if they carried out
their leader's threat to sell the girls, they would forever
be liable to prosecution for war crimes, even decades after
"We warn the perpetrators that there is an absolute
prohibition against slavery and sexual slavery in
international law. These can ... constitute crimes against
humanity," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said
The military's inability to find the girls in three weeks has
led to protests in the northeast, Abuja and Lagos, the
commercial capital. More are expected on Tuesday in Abuja,
just as delegates will be collecting their badges to allow
them entry to the hotel where the WEF will take place.
British Foreign Minister William Hague reiterated an offer of
help to Nigeria on Tuesday, after calling the abductions
"disgusting and immoral".
Worsening violence so close to the capital has also put the
spotlight on security arrangements for the WEF, with a few
delegates cancelling, though organisers still expect most to
arrive as planned.
Police and military units were deployed outside the Sheraton
hotel, where delegates picked up credentials for the forum. A
black pick-up truck carrying four men dressed in black with
sub-machine guns patrolled, then sped off.