By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
ABUJA, NIGERIA (BosNewsLife)-- Militants from Nigeria's feared Islamic group Boko Haram have vowed to continue kidnapping daughters of Christians after abducting hundreds of mainly Christian schoolgirls in the country's northeast.
Among those held as hostages were eight more girls who were abducted from a Nigerian village late Monday, May 5, authorities said.
The abductions came hours after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was seen on a widely-circulated video vowing to continue kidnapping "the daughters of Christians", forcing them to convert to Islam and selling them into slavery. The kidnappings brought to some 300 the number of girls who have been taken, according to Nigerian police.
Police said the girls, reportedly ranging in age from 12 to 15, were taken on trucks, along with livestock and food from the village of Warabe, in the nation's northeast.
"I abducted your girls," Shekau said about the abductions of all school girls. "By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace," he added in the video.
PRESIDENT OBAMA REACTS
U.S. President Barack Obama reacted to the kidnappings Tuesday, May 6, calling them “heartbreaking” and “outrageous.”
“You’ve got one of the worst regional or local terrorist organizations in Boko Haram in Nigeria," he told the ABC network. "They’ve been killing people ruthlessly for many years now and we’ve already been seeking greater cooperation with the Nigerians – this may be the event that helps to mobilize the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organization that’s perpetrated such a terrible crime,” Obama said.
Christian rights activists told BosNewsLife that they knew of at least 243 school girls being abducted. There was no immediate clarification for the different figures in what is still a chaotic situation.
"As reported by the parents of the abducted, Boko Haram is suspected to still be in possession of more than 230 school girls who are being sold into domestic and sexual servitude for as little as $12 each," said advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC).
The troubles began late April 14 when more than 100 armed Boko Haram insurgents reportedly abducted hundreds of students from an all-girls government-sponsored secondary school in the northeastern village of Chibok after shooting their way past the compound's security staff.
One 16-year-old Nigerian girl who was present during the mass abduction at the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School said the students were at first happy to see gunmen.
The girls in the school dorm could hear the sound of gunshots from a nearby town and the armed men in uniforms promised to rescue them. "Don't worry, we're soldiers," the girl, who later escaped, recalled them saying.
"Nothing is going to happen to you." The gunmen reportedly commanded the hundreds of students at the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School to gather outside. The men went into a storeroom and removed all the food. Then they set fire to the room, news reports said. "They ... started shouting, 'Allahu Akhbar' (Allah is great)," the 16-year-old student told reporters. "And we knew."
The militants kidnapped the entire group of girls and drove them away in pickup trucks into the dense forest.
The mass kidnapping lasted some six hours as the kidnappers hand-selected their victims from the more than 250 students attending the secondary school, Christians said.
"The overwhelmingly Christian crop of abductees was then loaded onto the backs of military-grade trucks and driven deep into the Sambisa Forest located on the Nigerian-Cameroonian border. Though an estimated one to two dozen of those abducted have reportedly escaped, search parties comprised of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) vigilantes and parents continue to search alongside the Nigerian Army for the remaining missing girls," ICC investigators said.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is a sin," has ordered Christians to leave Nigeria's northern regions where it seeks to establish a separate Islamic state with its strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic, law.
Militants often target schools, government institutions and minorities, especially Christians, as part of what activists view as a broader strategy to create a purely Islamic society in northern Nigeria.
This year already some 2,500 people, including many Christians, were killed by Boko Haram militants, according to various estimates. Several churches were set ablaze.
"Boko Haram's deliberate targeting of Christian students for sale into domestic slavery and forced marriage once again illustrates the group's limitless repertoire of evil and its willingness to unleash that evil in pursuit of a separate Islamic state ruled by Sharia law," said ICC's Regional Manager, William Stark.
He said authorities were unable to provide "the security necessary to ensure prosperous living for the nation's Christians and other minority religions, especially in the increasingly lawless" northern regions.
"If the Nigerian state and international community continue to fail to respond to Boko Haram effectively, 230 innocent school girls could be lost to a lifetime of suffering and oppression at the hands of these Islamic militants," Stark warned.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation with almost 170 million people, split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims, and around 250 different ethnic groups.
(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since May 2004).
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