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Kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls reportedly sold into marriages

Around 220 schoolgirls are still missing after being abducted by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Mothers of the students hold signs calling for them to be rescued
Mothers of the students hold signs calling for them to be rescued
Image: ASSOCIATED PRESS

SCORES OF SCHOOLGIRLS kidnapped from a school in Nigeria are being forced to marry their Islamic extremist abductors, a civic organisation has reported.

At the same time, the Boko Haram terrorist network is negotiating over the students’ fate and is demanding an unspecified ransom for their release, according to a community leader.

He said the Wednesday night message from the abductors also claimed that two of the girls have died from snake bites.

The message was sent to a member of a presidential committee mandated last year to mediate a ceasefire with the Islamic extremists, said the civic leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak about the talks.

APTOPIX Nigeria Kidnapped Girls A mother holds a sign during a demonstration Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS

The news of negotiations comes as parents say the girls are being sold into marriage to Boko Haram militants. The students are being paid 2,000 naira (€10) to marry the fighters, Halite Aliyu of the Borno-Yobe People’s Forum told The Associated Press.

‘Medieval kind of slavery’

She said the parents’ information about mass weddings is coming from villagers in the Sambisa Forest, on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is known to have hideouts.

“The latest reports are that they have been taken across the borders, some to Cameroon and Chad,” Aliyu said. It was not possible to verify the reports about more than 200 missing girls kidnapped in the northeast by the Boko Haram terrorist network two weeks ago.

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Four of the students who were abducted but escaped. Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Some of them have been married off to insurgents. A medieval kind of slavery. You go and capture women and then sell them off,” community elder Pogu Bitrus of Chibok, the town where the girls were abducted, told the BBC Hausa Service.

Protests

Outrage over the failure to rescue the girls is growing and hundreds of women braved heavy rain to march today to Nigeria’s National Assembly to protest lack of action over the students. Hundreds more also marched in Kano, Nigeria’s second city in the north.

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Source: AP/Press Association Images

“The leaders of both houses said they will do all in their power but we are saying two weeks already have past, we want action now,” said activist Mercy Asu Abang.

We want our girls to come home alive — not in body bags.

Nigerians have harnessed social media to protest, trending under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

A federal senator from the region said the military is aware of the movements of the kidnappers and the girls because he has been feeding them details that he has gathered on a near-daily basis.

“Whatever it takes”

Zanna said some of the girls are in Kolofata in Cameroon, about 15 kilometres from the border with Nigeria. He said one of the insurgents had called a friend in Borno state to say that he had just got married and was settling in Kolofata. Zanna also said three or four days ago Nigerian herdsmen reported seeing the girls taken in boats onto an island in Lake Chad.

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Another senator from the region said the government needs to get international help to rescue the girls. The government must do “whatever it takes, even seeking external support to make sure these girls are released,” Senator Ali Ndume said.

The longer it takes the dimmer the chances of finding them, the longer it takes the more traumatised the family and the abducted girls are.

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Source: AP/Press Association Images

About 50 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape from their captors in the first days after their abduction, but some 220 remain missing, according to the principal of the Chibok Girls Secondary School, Asabe Kwambura. They are between 16 and 18 years old and had been recalled to the school to write a physics exam.

Criticism

The failure to rescue the girls is a massive embarrassment to Nigeria’s government and the military, already confronted by mounting criticism over its apparent inability to curb the 5-year-old Islamic uprising despite having draconian powers through an 11-month state of emergency in three northeastern states covering one-sixth of the country.

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls Source: AP/Press Association Images

The military trumpets a success in its “onslaught on terrorists” but then the extremists step up the tempo and deadliness of their attacks. More than 1,500 people have been killed in the insurgency so far this year, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the predominantly Christian south of Nigeria, has been accused of insensitivity to the plight of people in the north, who are mainly Muslims.

The military’s lack of progress in rescuing the girls indicates that large parts of northeastern Nigeria remain beyond the control of the government. Until the kidnappings, the air force had been mounting near-daily bombing raids since mid-January on the Sambisa Forest and mountain caves bordering Chad.

Aliyu said that in northeastern Nigeria “life has become nasty, short and brutish. We are living in a state of anarchy.”

Read: 234 girls kidnapped by Islamic extremists in Nigeria > 

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