Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1261, (3 - 9 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Nigeria marks ordeal of abducted girls

President Buhari promised to take action against Boko Haram, but there is little to show as the world marks 500 days since the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls, writes Haytham Nouri

President Buhari
President Buhari
Al-Ahram Weekly

When President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria took office in May, he promised to take the war against Boko Haram -- the militant group based in northeast Nigeria and in neighbouring Cameroon and Chad -- to the next level.

But since then, Boko Haram has killed 1,000 people, bringing the total number of its victims to around 15,000.

No wonder the Nigerians were more sombre than usual as they marked the abduction by Boko Haram militants of 276 girls from their secondary school 500 days ago. Some 57 girls escaped from the group since, but 219 are still in Boko Haram hands.

The militants’ leader, Abubakar Shekau, once claimed that they all converted to Islam and were married off. To back his claims, the group released a video showing about 100 girls dressed in Muslim fashion and reading the Quran.

Members of the Bring-Back-Our-Girls campaign marked the 500-day abduction with marches in Abuja followed by an evening vigil.

Young campaigners paraded in the city streets dressed in red t-shirts and with red ribbons tied around their heads, symbolising the ordeal of the school girls.

Those who fled from Boko Haram’s hands told stories of forced labour and rape. Reports about the survivors are inconsistent, some suggesting they are held in various Boko Haram camps in Nigeria and elsewhere, while others claim they were sold as sex slaves and smuggled to other countries.

Abuja’s Catholic Archbishop John Onaiyekan offered his thoughts on the event. “My heart bleeds for the children, I feel terribly ashamed,” he said.

The chief imam of Apo Mosque in Abuja, Sheikh Nura Khalid, also expressed his outrage, urging all Muslim clerics to “use the pulpits to preach for the freedom of the girls.”

Since the abduction took place, international dignitaries such as the wife of the US President, Michelle Obama, and the actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie voiced solidarity with the missing girls.

An 8,700-man multinational “Joint Task Force”, drawing on troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin, will soon be deployed against Boko Haram, Nigerian officials said.

But Nigerian security analyst Fulan Nasrullah told AFP that there was “no hope” of recovering the Chibok girls.

“Most have had kids by now and are married to their captors,” Nasrullah said. “Some have been killed probably in attempts to escape, air strikes on camps where they were being held, etc.”

Nigerian security services have arrested 14 Boko Haram members in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the capital over the last two months.

Tony Opuiyo, spokesman of the Nigerian Department of State Services (DSS), the country’s intelligence service, said that Boko Haram seems to be extending its reach from northeast Nigeria to places in the south.

Among those arrested is a man called Usma Shuaibu, who is said to have masterminded bombings in various parts of Nigeria.

In a related development, Nigerian police arrested a 14-year-old at Abuja Airport and charged him with spying for Boko Haram.

The German magazine Die Zeit reported that some of the abducted girls are working as servants for top Boko Haram officials.

Khadr Abdulrazeq, media professor in Abuja University, said that the arrest of Boko Haram operatives in major cities in the south is a bad sign, as it means the militant group is planning to expand its activities into new territories.

In neighbouring Chad, authorities executed ten members of Boko Haram for acts of terror. These were the first death sentences to be passed on Muslim militants since N’Djamena joined the war on Boko Haram.

The ten men were found guilt of carrying out twin attacks in N’Djamena in June, which killed nearly 40 people. A month after the attacks, Chad introduced the death sentence for acts of terror.

“They were shot this morning at the Massaguet firing range,” an official told Reuters, referring to a location nearly 60 kilometres northeast of N’Djamena.

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