Scores of young women have been kidnapped in new abductions by Islamist militants in Nigeria, according to local journalists, a Roman Catholic bishop and news reports, indicating that Boko Haram’s campaign of violence is continuing despite official reports of a cease-fire with the group.
The kidnappings took place Saturday in a mountain village near the border with Cameroon, a Boko Haram stronghold, said Bishop Stephen Mamza, who is from the area but now officiates in the state capital, Yola.
The bishop described a situation much like the one last April when more than 200 schoolgirls were taken from Chibok in neighboring Borno State, a kidnapping that attracted worldwide attention. The fate of those girls still seems unresolved, despite government claims that a deal for their release is in the works.
n the latest kidnapping, residents told the bishop that scores of gunmen on motorcycles stormed their village, Garta, on Saturday. Boko Haram has operated with near impunity for months in the mountainous region, with occasional reprisals from Nigeria’s military.
The gunmen burned houses in the village, slit the throats of four men and went house to house searching for young women, eventually taking away around 60, according to the bishop and local news reports.
“Those who were abducted are from my hometown,” Bishop Mamza said by phone on Thursday. “Of course it is credible. This is actually what is happening on a daily basis, only it is not reported.” The bishop said most of those abducted by the Islamists were Christians.
Last week, government and military officials were quoted in the Nigerian news media as saying that a cease-fire deal had been struck with the militants, as well as one for the release of the girls abducted from Chibok.
But the announcement of the deal was never confirmed by a known Boko Haram spokesman. And since then, there have been several violent attacks in northern Nigeria and numerous killings attributed to Boko Haram.
The official announcements of last week were greeted with broad skepticism in Nigeria, where the government has regularly promised a resolution to an insurgency now in its sixth year.