Almost one year after the mass abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls, Boko Haram militants have kidnapped more than 400 women and children from the northern Nigerian town of Damasak. There has not yet been an official confirmation, but mass abductions are not out of character for the Islamist militant group. According to BBC, when troops from Niger and Chad freed Damasak from Boko Haram's months-long control of the town on Saturday, they found the bodies of about 70 people who appeared to have been killed a while ago.
Damasak, a trading town near the Niger border, is about 180 miles north of Chibok, where the abductions of nearly 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram last April drew international attention. More than 200 of the schoolgirls were never found and it's believed many were sold into slavery or early marriages by the militant group.
Damasak was torn apart by the fighting that freed the town, and debris and burnt-out cars remain scattered along the streets. It's unclear exactly when the women and children were kidnapped, but a local resident told Reuters that militant soldiers rounded up the victims in the main mosque before taking them out of town. A trader called Souleymane Ali described the kidnapping to Reuters, saying:
They took 506 young women and children [in Damasak]. They killed about 50 of them before leaving. We don't know if they killed others after leaving, but they took the rest with them.
Ali said that his wife and three of his daughters were among those taken.
Two of them were supposed to get married this year. [Boko Haram] said "They are slaves so we're taking them because they belong to us."
Niger troops brought food to the remaining Damasak residents Tuesday and many people came out of hiding in the bush to check the state of their property before going back. Ali told Reuters:
We've seen the worst possible things you can imagine, so after a certain point there was no point in trying to leave. They killed all our friends, our family members, so we just submitted ourselves to God.
Boko Haram's reign of terror in northeastern Nigeria has lasted several years now, and the militants continue to use excessive violence. More than 15,500 people have been killed by the fighting in the region since 2012, according to BBC. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has predicted that Boko Haram will lose all of its territory within a month, telling BBC, "They are getting weaker and weaker by the day."
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