JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists from the insurgent Boko Haram who kidnapped more than 100 girls last night targeted a public high school in a predominantly Christian town, sources said.
In Borno state, in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim northeast where Boko Haram is based, the Islamist group abducted at least 129 girls who were asleep in their dormitories at Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, one of three towns considered Christian enclaves in the state. Gwoza and Askira Uba are the other two Christian towns.
The Boko Haram gunmen set fire to houses and shops and afterward looted them, area residents said. Sunday Aimu, 38, told Morning Star News that about Christian 300 female students were asleep at school dormitories at the time of the raid. The attack occurred after 11 p.m., Aimu said.
“A family member had phoned me at 11:45 and told me that all was not well as the town was being attacked,” he said. “I could hear sounds of gunshots.”
Aimu said relatives told him the attack lasted until about 4 a.m. Wednesday. A government spokesman said the girls were herded onto trucks after a long gun battle with soldiers guarding the school, but Aimu said the assailants met no effective resistance.
“They, the Boko Haram gunmen, carried out the attack unchallenged,” he said. “The town’s market was burned down, houses were destroyed, and food items and vehicles were taken away by them.”
A video released on March 23 by Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, showed leader Abubakar Shekau threatening to kidnap schoolgirls. Borno officials temporarily closed all 85 of its secondary schools in early March due to increasing Boko Haram attacks, and until yesterday Christians in the state considered Chibok the safest area to send their children for schooling.
The Rev. Titus Pona, chairman of Borno State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News most of the kidnapped girls were members of Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN). Eyewitnesses, he said, estimated about 200 girls were kidnapped.
“We have been praying for the kidnapped girls and hoping that God will intervene,” said Pona, a native of Chibok. “So far, God has answered our prayers as 20 of the girls have escaped from their captors and have returned safely.”
A military spokesman later said all but eight of 129 girls abducted had been recovered, but it was not clear how they became free and what condition they were in, and at press time the assertion had yet to be independently confirmed. Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade also said one of the alleged assailants had been captured.
While Boko Haram (translated as “Western education is a sin”) is the moniker residents of Maiduguri, Borno state gave the insurgents, the group calls itself the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal–Jihad, translated as “The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.” In 2013 the U.S. government designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and it has links with Al Shabaab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Paul Gadzama, a native of Borno state and a director with Relief Missions, which ministers to persecuted Christians, told Morning Star News that the kidnapping of the Christian students was the latest in a series of horrific incidents Christians in northeastern Nigeria have faced.
“Nothing has been done by the Nigerian government to put an end to these atrocities against the church,” Gadzama said. “We have a situation in which Muslim gunmen, at will, storm Christian villages in this part of Nigeria and kill Christians at will, and yet, there is a state of emergency that had been declared and soldiers are in the state.”
He called on the government to take urgent measures to contain the attacks on Christians in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and other states in northern Nigeria.
Before the Nigerian military’s announcement, Chibok resident Aimu said parents of missing girls were making frantic efforts to locate their whereabouts; the girls were believed to have been taken to a forest around Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
“Please, pray for Christians in Chibok,” Aimu said.
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