ABUJA, Nigeria — Reports of a large-scale kidnapping by Boko Haram prompted fears Wednesday that the Islamist insurgent group had retained its strength despite a multinational offensive against its strongholds. But a Nigerian government spokesman denied that the abductions had occurred.
A Reuters report quoted residents of Damasak, in northeastern Borno state, who said Boko Haram fighters had kidnapped more than 400 women and children.
The insurgent group was thought to have been pushed out of that village by an offensive led by Chadian soldiers earlier this month as part of a multinational operation. The military campaign came nearly a year after Boko Haram grabbed the world’s attention by kidnapping about 300 schoolgirls, many of whom remain missing.
A large-scale abduction by the group would serve as a blow to the Nigerian government, which — just days before a presidential election — is waging a seemingly effective counteroffensive against Boko Haram, along with neighboring countries.
A spokesman for the Nigerian military denied that the abductions had occurred in Damasak, near the Niger border.
“There was no kidnapping there,” Mike Omeri said. “The people have been rescued and moved to IDP [internally displaced person] camps.”