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Boko Haram kidnaps more girls – and the world asks why Nigeria has done so little

Why has it taken pressure from the international community for the African state to address a shocking crime?

Catrina Stewart
Saturday 10 May 2014 09:51 BST
Protesters march in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington
Protesters march in front of the Nigerian Embassy in Washington (Reuters)

Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped eight more girls from a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria just three weeks after snatching nearly 300 schoolgirls who the militant group’s leader has warned face being sold into slavery.

The latest attack, news of which took a couple of days to emerge, comes as the Nigerian government faces growing criticism for its failure to find the schoolgirls and curb the activities of the group that has claimed thousands of lives in its five-year insurgency.

Residents in Warabe in Borno State said that armed militias in two camouflaged vehicles swooped on the village on Sunday night, taking girls and torching homes. "They moved door to door looking for girls," said Abdullahi Sani, a resident. "They forcefully took away eight girls between the ages of 12 and 15."

Read more: What is Boko Haram?

Parents of the newly abducted girls will be painfully aware of their potential fate after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau's chilling threat to sell schoolgirls taken from Chibok village, also in Borno, in the early hours of 15 April as slaves in the market.

The girls, who were at the boarding school to take their final exams, were aged between 16 and 18. The extremist leader’s comments in a video released on Monday confirmed the worst fears of the girls’ relatives amid unconfirmed local reports that some of the girls had already been sold as "brides" in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon for 2,000 naira (£8).

Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates as "Western education is forbidden", has waged war against the state since 2009 in a bid to establish a medieval-style caliphate in the north of the country. It has railed against the use of Western-style curricula in schools, and efforts to reconcile the Christian south with the Muslim north.

But in these latest attacks, Nigerians have transcended the ethnic divide to unite in their anger towards Boko Haram, but also in their condemnation of the government, which is accused of doing little to trace the missing girls.

Read more:

Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest in almost all major cities, urging President Goodluck Jonathan to act quickly to find the girls, and the hashtag #bringbackourgirls has been trending on Twitter, with more than a million tweets so far using the tag to publicise the attacks to the outside world.

Mr Jonathan publicly addressed the abductions for the first time at the weekend, fuelling criticism that only domestic and international pressure is forcing him to act.

International reaction to Boko Haram's acts was initially muted, but the spectre of girls being sold into slavery has focused attention on their plight, prompting the US, the UK and others to offer help to the Nigerian government.

Washington has offered "a coordination cell" that would include military personnel and law enforcement officials with experience in hostage negotiations.

In the hours after the girls' disappearance - around 230 are said to remain hostage after some 50 girls escaped in the initial confusion, although some put the number as much higher - desperate parents entered the vast Sambisi forest reserve, where Boko Haram has several strongholds, to search for their daughters.

Efforts to enlist the Nigerian military in the search were inexplicably rebuffed, and the parents eventually had to return home after locals familiar with the area warned them that the militants were too well-armed.

Time has not been on the girls' side. In the three weeks since their abduction, it is thought the girls have been separated into small groups, with some whisked across the border, making them and the insurgents holding them increasingly difficult to track.

Some in Borno have accused the President, who comes from Nigeria's mainly Christian south, of being indifferent to the plight of the predominantly Muslim north. The insurgency has claimed 1,500 lives this year alone, including 59 boys massacred in their school in February.

One of the mothers of the missing Chibok school girls wipes her tears at a rally in Abuja (Getty Images)

But the military is also woefully ill-equipped to tackle Boko Haram, which is well-funded with sophisticated weaponry. The Nigerian army has inferior arms, and soldiers have complained of basic shortages, claiming that they barely receive a meal a day. They will also be wary of the militants' known tactics of using hostages to lure soldiers into deadly ambushes, a tactic that has gradually eroded morale over the past year.

Boko Haram's graduation into the abduction business has in part been a response to the Nigerian military's earlier decision to take relatives of Boko Haram members as hostages to put pressure on the group.

Analysts warn that the only way to bring the insurgency down is by enlisting the help of the outside world, relying less on the country’s heavy-handed military, which is credited with abuses of power and summary executions that have stoked the violence, and replacing them with internationally trained police and security forces.

Kidnapped from school: The named girls

1. Deborah Abge

2. Awa Abge

3. Hauwa Yirma

4. Asabe Manu

5. Mwa Malam pogu

6. Patiant Dzakwa

7. Saraya Mal. Stover

8. Mary Dauda

9. Gloria Mainta

10. Hanatu Ishaku

11. Gloria Dama

12. Tabitha Pogu

13. Maifa Dama

14. Ruth Kollo

15. Esther Usman

16. Awa James

17. Anthonia Yahonna

18. Kume Mutah

19. Aisha Ezekial

20. Nguba Buba

21. Kwanta Simon

22. Kummai Aboku

23. Esther Markus

24. Hana Stephen

25. Rifkatu Amos

26. Rebecca Mallum

27. Blessing Abana

28. Ladi Wadai

29. Tabitha Hyelampa

30. Ruth Ngladar

31. Safiya Abdu

32. Na’omi Yahonna

33. Solomi Titus

34. Rhoda John

35. Rebecca Kabu

36. Christy Yahi

37. Rebecca Luka

38. Laraba John

39. Saratu Markus

40. Mary Usman

41. Debora Yahonna

42.Naomi Zakaria

43. Hanatu Musa

44. Hauwa Tella

45. Juliana Yakubu

46. Suzana Yakubu

47. Saraya Paul

48. Jummai Paul

49. Mary Sule

50. Jummai John

51. Yanke Shittima

52. Muli Waligam

53. Fatima Tabji

54. Eli Joseph

55. Saratu Emmanuel

56. Deborah Peter

57. Rahila Bitrus

58. Luggwa Sanda

59. Kauna Lalai

60. Lydia Emmar

61. Laraba Maman

62. Hauwa Isuwa.

63. Confort Habila

64. Hauwa Abdu

65. Hauwa Balti

66. Yana Joshua

67. Laraba Paul

68. Saraya Amos

69. Glory Yaga

70. Na’omi Bitrus

71. Godiya Bitrus

72. Awa Bitrus

73. Na’omi Luka

74. Maryamu Lawan

75. Tabitha Silas

76. Mary Yahona

77. Ladi Joel

78. Rejoice Sanki

79. Luggwa Samuel

80. Comfort Amos

81. Saraya Samuel

82. Sicker Abdul

83. Talata Daniel

84. Rejoice Musa

85. Deborah Abari

86. Salomi Pogu

87. Mary Amor

88. Ruth Joshua

89. Esther John

90. Esther Ayuba

91. Maryamu Yakubu

91. Zara Ishaku

93. Maryamu Wavi

94. Lydia Habila

95. Laraba Yahonna

96. Na’omi Bitrus

97.Rahila Yahanna

98. Ruth Lawan

99. Ladi Paul

100 Mary Paul

101. Esther Joshua

102. Helen Musa

103. Margret Watsai

104. Deborah Jafaru

105. Filo Dauda

106. Febi Haruna

107. Ruth Ishaku

108. Racheal Nkeki

109. Rifkatu Soloman

110. Mairama Yahaya

111. Saratu Dauda

112. Jinkai Yama

113. Margret Shettima

114. Yana Yidau

115. Grace Paul

116. Amina Ali

117. Palmata Musa

118. Awagana Musa

119. Pindar Nuhu

120. Yana Pogu

121. Saraya Musa

122. Hauwa Joseph

123. Hauwa Kwakwi

125. Hauwa Musa

126. Maryamu Musa

127. Maimuna Usman

128. Rebeca Joseph

129. Liyatu Habitu

130. Rifka tu Yakubu

131. Naomi Philimon

132.Deborah Abbas

133. Ladi Ibrahim

134. Asabe Ali

135. Maryamu Bulama

136. Ruth Amos

137. Mary Ali

138. Abigail Bukar

139. Deborah Amos

140. Saraya Yanga

141. Kauna Luka

142. Christiana Bitrus

143.Yana Bukar

144. Hauwa Peter

145. Hadiza Yakubu

146. Lydia Simon

147. Ruth Bitrus

148. Mary Yakubu

149. Lugwa Mutah

150. Muwa Daniel

151. Hanatu Nuhu

152. Monica Enoch

153. Margret Yama

154. Docas Yakubu

155. Rhoda Peter

156. Rifkatu Galang

157. Saratu Ayuba.

158. Naomi Adamu

159. Hauwa Ishaya

160. Rahap Ibrahim

162. Deborah Soloman

163. Hauwa Mutah

164. Hauwa Takai

165. Serah Samuel

166. Aishatu Musa

167. Aishatu Grema

168. Hauwa Nkeki

169. Hamsatu Abubakar

170. Mairama Abubakar

171. Hauwa Wule

172. Ihyi Abdu

173. Hasana Adamu

174. Rakiya Kwamtah

175. Halima Gamba

176. Aisha Lawan

177. Kabu Malla

178. Yayi Abana

179. Falta Lawan

180. Kwadugu Manu

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