MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Dec 18 – Boko Haram has kidnapped at least 185 people, including women and children, from a Nigerian village, carting the hostages away on trucks towards Sambisa Forest, a notorious rebel stronghold, two local officials and a vigilante leader said Thursday.
The mass abduction, part of an attack that also killed 32 people, occurred Sunday in the village of Gumsuri, Borno state, in the embattled northeast.
Both officials, who requested anonymity, said the local government established the number of those abducted through contacting families, ward heads and emirs.
A vigilante leader based in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, Usman Kakani, told AFP that fighters who were in Gumsuri during the attack provided a figure of 191 abducted, including women, girls and boys.
Gumsuri is roughly 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Maiduguri and falls on the road that leads to Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in April.
Details of the Gumsuri attack took four days to emerge because the mobile phone network in the region has completely collapsed and many roads are impassable. READ: ‘Boko Haram’ kills 32, kidnaps scores in NE Nigeria.
Those who fled the village said it was too dangerous to head directly to Maiduguri. Instead, they travelled several hundred kilometres in the opposite direction to connect with the main road that leads to the state capital.
Mukhtar Buba, a Gumsuri resident who fled to Maiduguri, also confirmed that women and children were taken. “After killing our youths, the insurgents have taken away our wives and daughters,” he said.
Boko Haram has increasingly used kidnappings to boost its supply of child fighters, porters and young women who have reportedly been used as sex slaves.
The mass abductions in Chibok brought unprecedented attention to Boko Haram’s five-year extremist uprising, and President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to end the conflict.
But violence has escalated since April and the Gumsuri attack will no doubt cast further doubt on Nigeria’s ability to contain the crisis.