Boko Haram Abducts 400 Residents Fleeing Town, Lawmaker Says

Islamist militant group Boko Haram abducted more than 400 residents from the northern Nigerian town of Damasak before its fighters were driven out two weeks ago, according to a local politician.

Mostly women and children were kidnapped by the insurgents, Maina Maaji Lawan, a senator from the northern part of Borno state that includes Damasak, said in a phone interview Wednesday. On Tuesday, Lawan said the number of abductions wasn’t clear and may have been as high as 500.

“These women and children were not just kidnapped last week, some were taken since the invasion of Damasak and surrounding villages,” Lawan said. “The Boko Haram members have been kidnapping women whenever they take over towns and villages.”

Nigeria has received help from neighbors Chad and Niger as it seeks to regain control of large areas of the country’s northeast held by the jihadist group. The violence led the country to postpone last month’s presidential election, now due to be held March 28.

Nigeria’s northeast will be secure enough for voting to take place this weekend, with only three areas in the region under Boko Haram’s control, Mike Omeri, a government spokesman, said last week.

Tragic Event

Boko Haram has killed thousands during a six-year insurgency. The group has frequently abducted local people, including more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeast town of Chibok whose disappearance last year drew global condemnation.

“They later indoctrinate them and make the abductees believe in their ideology,” said Lawan.

While the army has taken back territory, with assistance from neighboring countries, suspected Boko Haram militants continue to carry out raids and suicide bombings in the region.

“The event is tragic, and illustrative of the brutality to which people living under Boko Haram’s rule are subject,” Francois Conradie, an analyst at NKC Independent Economists in Paarl, South Africa, said in e-mailed comments. “It is hard to be sure to what extent these towns really are liberated.”

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