Nigeria jihadists kidnap 20 children: residents

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Nigeria jihadists kidnap 20 children: residents
© Audu Marte Nigeria’s army has been battling jihadists in the northeast for more than a decade

Jihadists killed two people and kidnapped 20 children in Nigeria’s Borno state, where Islamist militants are waging a more than decade-long insurgency, a community leader and residents said Friday.

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Thursday’s assault on Piyemi village took place near Chibok town where eight years ago Boko Haram jihadists abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in an attack that sparked international outcry.

Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stormed Piyemi on Thursday afternoon, killing two men and seizing 13 girls and seven boys, according to the residents and the community leader. 

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Nigeria jihadists kidnap 20 children: residents
© Sophie RAMIS Map of Nigeria locating Borno state

The ISWAP militants dressed in military uniforms started shooting and looting shops in the village and setting homes on fire, they said.

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“They shot dead two people and took away 13 girls and seven boys aged between 12 and 15,” local resident Samson Bulus told AFP by phone.

The militants who attacked from nearby Sambisa forest herded “the 20 kidnapped children into a truck they seized from the village and drove them into the forest”, said another resident Silas John.

Military officials were not immediately available to comment on the attack.

But a local Chibok government official confirmed the attack without giving details.

A community leader also gave similar details about the jihadist assault and the abducted children.

“This attack was the third in recent days and underscores the risks villages around Chibok face from jihadists,” said Ayuba Alamson, the community leader from Chibok.

– Schools targeted –

Thursday’s kidnapping came as Nigeria struggles with a string of abduction-for-ransom attacks on schools by criminal gangs over the last year in its northwestern states.

Around 1,500 schoolchildren were seized last year in 20 mass kidnappings in schools across the region, with 16 students losing their lives, according to the UN children welfare agency UNICEF.

Most of the hostages were released after negotiations with the criminal gangs known locally as bandits, but some are still in captivity in forest hideouts.

Following Thursday’s raid, residents said they returned to Piyemi village Friday after spending the night in the bush to escape the ISWAP attackers.

The jihadists razed part of the village, including a church, and burnt 10 vehicles in the three-hour long attack, said resident John.

Troops have been stationed in Chibok since the infamous 2014 schoolgirl abduction but deadly jihadist raids continue in the area, with the militants launching attacks from their nearby forest enclaves.

ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 seized Sambisa forest from rival Boko Haram following the death of Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau in May in clashes between the two factions.

More than 40,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million people displaced by the jihadist conflict in the northeast of Nigeria.

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