Nigeria’s Boko Haram Steps Up Kidnapping, Group Says

Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram is stepping up its campaign of kidnapping, especially of students and Christians, in its battle against the government, Human Rights Watch said.

While the April 14 seizure of more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok was the biggest abduction by the group, it’s carried out kidnappings before and after that incident, Human Rights Watch said today in a report. Boko Haram has taken at least 500 women and girls since 2009 and subjected them to forced marriages, conversion to Islam and rape, it said.

“The relative ease with which Boko Haram carried out the Chibok abductions seems to have emboldened it to step up abductions elsewhere,” the New York-based group said.

Shettima Maina, chairman of the Mafa district in the northeastern state of Borno, said yesterday that about 30 youths had been kidnapped within the past few days, and communities were suffering daily attacks.

“Many households have had to escape to Maiduguri and other neighboring towns for fear of being killed or losing their children,” he told reporters in Maiduguri, the state capital.

Last week, suspected Boko Haram militants abducted 60 women from two villages in Adamawa state, also in the northeast. Those attacks happened less than a week after the government said it reached a truce with the group, which has killed more than 13,000 people since 2009, according to President Goodluck Jonathan.

Failed Protection

Since the Oct. 17 cease-fire was announced, violence has continued unabated, especially in the northeast of Africa’s biggest oil producer. Nigeria, a country of about 170 million people, is roughly divided between a Christian south and a Muslim north, where the violence is fiercest.

Chadian President Idriss Deby is acting as intermediary in negotiations between the Nigerian government and the militants. Those talks continue, Nigerian Foreign Minister Aminu Wali said in the capital, Abuja, today during a meeting with his French and German counterparts.

“We expect a lot of progress to be made and soon we will announce exactly where we are,” Wali said. The Chibok girls form part of those negotiations, he said.

Boko Haram has intensified its campaign of abductions since May 2013, when Nigeria imposed a state of emergency in three northeastern states where the militants are most active, Human Rights Watch said.

‘Myriad Abuses’

“The Nigerian government has failed to adequately protect women and girls from a myriad of abuses, provide them with effective support and mental health and medical care after captivity, ensure access to safe schools, or investigate and prosecute those responsible for the abuses,” it said.

Almost 700,000 Nigerians have been displaced as a result of conflict, the country’s National Emergency Management Agency said on Oct. 23. Of those, 90,000 are Catholics, said Gideon Obasogie, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri.

“As a church, we are really going through a severe moment of persecution,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch indicates that the situation in the states of Yobe, Adamawa and especially Borno, constitutes an armed conflict “to which international humanitarian law –- also known as the laws of war –- applies,” the group said.

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