19 | ABR | 2019
Boko Haram abducts Nigerian schoolgirls
Last meal served to students before an attack by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, lies on the ground at the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi, the northeastern state of Yobe, Nigeria - Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/REUTERS

Boko Haram abducts Nigerian schoolgirls

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The kidnappings could undermine efforts to keep girls in schools and threaten progress on women’s education in the region

One hundred and ten girls are missing after an attack on a school in northeast Nigeria by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, the information ministry said on Sunday, in what may be one of the largest abductions since the Chibok kidnappings in April 2014.

The Islamist militant group attained international notoriety after abducting more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. That case drew global attention to the insurgency and spawned high profile social media campaign Bring Back Our Girls.

Boko Haram, whose name translates as “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language widely spoken in northern Nigeria, has killed more than 20,000 people and forced two million to flee their homes in a violent insurgency that began in 2009.

President Muhammadu Buhari, the 75-year-old former military ruler elected in 2015 after vowing to crush Boko Haram, has described the disappearance of the girls after the attack in the town of Dapchi, Yobe state, on February 19, as a “national disaster."

The insurgents drove into the town of Dapchi and attacked the girls’ school, sending hundreds of students fleeing. Some of the attackers were camouflaged, with witnesses stating that a number of students thought they were soldiers.

“The federal government has confirmed that 110 students of the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, are so far unaccounted for after insurgents believed to be from a faction of Boko Haram invaded their school on Monday,” the information ministry said in a statement.

It should be noted that there had been confusion over the number of those missing, with estimates ranging from about 50 to more than 100, as state police, Yobe government and others had given different figures.

On Wednesday, Yobe state government added to the confusion when it said that dozens of the girls had been rescued, only to issue a statement the next day saying the schoolgirls were mostly still unaccounted for, sparking anger among locals.

The Nigerian Air Force said the chief of air staff had “directed the immediate deployment of additional air assets and Nigerian Air Force personnel to the northeast with the sole mission of conducting day and night searches for the missing girls”.

“The renewed efforts at locating the girls are being conducted in close liaison with other surface security forces.”

Information Minister Lai Mohammed, who was part of a delegation of ministers who met parents and teachers in Dapchi and announced the number of missing girls, also said police and security officials had been deployed to schools in the state.

The kidnapping of dozens more schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria by Boko Haram militants could undermine efforts to keep girls in schools and threaten progress on women’s education in the region, experts said on Friday.

The abduction could hinder girls’ education in Nigeria’s conservative northeast, where the majority of girls are married off before they turn 18, according to charity Girls Not Brides.

Activists also fear the fresh kidnappings could undermine efforts to negotiate the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, and possibly even pave the way for more abductions by Boko Haram.

“The Dapchi incident is a major setback for hopes and expectations for a conclusive release of the remaining Chibok girls and all others still held by Boko Haram,” said Nnamdi Obasi, International Crisis Group senior analyst for Nigeria.

Nigeria is still haunted by the kidnapping of the Chibok girls in 2014. About 106 have been found or freed, but at least 100 are still believed to be in captivity in the northeast.


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