Boko Haram kidnaps at least 185 people from Nigerian village

A civil society group carrying posters march on Nov 17, 2014 to protest the killing of over 47 students of Portiskum Government Comprehensive School in Yobe State, during an Assembly ground on Nov 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A civil society group carrying posters march on Nov 17, 2014 to protest the killing of over 47 students of Portiskum Government Comprehensive School in Yobe State, during an Assembly ground on Nov 10, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AFP) - Boko Haram has kidnapped at least 185 people from the northeast Nigeria village of Gumsuri, carting the hostages away on trucks towards the Sambisa Forest, a notorious rebel stronghold, two local officials and a vigilante leader said Thursday.

The mass abduction occurred Sunday. Both officials, who requested anonymity, said the local government established the number of people abducted by contacting families, ward heads and emirs.

A vigilante leader based in the Borno state capital Maiduguri, Usman Kakani, told AFP that civilian fighters who were in Gumsuri during the attack provided a figure of 191 abducted, including women, girls and boys.

Gumsuri is roughly 70 kilometres 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.

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.