Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and young girls in restive northeast Nigeria, a local official and a vigilante leader said on Tuesday.
The group was kidnapped in the last week during a Boko Haram attack on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, which left at least 30 dead, according to residents who escaped the violence.
Nigeria’s defence headquarters in Abuja said in a tweet late on Monday that it was “yet to confirm the several reports on the abduction of girls in Borno as at now”.
Defence spokesmen were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP on Tuesday.
A senior officer in the Damboa local government, who asked for his name to be withheld as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said: “Over 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists.
“The village was also destroyed. Some of the survivors who do not have means of transporting themselves, especially old women and men, trekked to Lassa, in the Askira-Uba local government area of Borno state, 25 kilometres (away).
“Others went to Gulak in Adamawa state, where they are now taking refuge.”
The abductions are the latest to take place in Borno, which has been worst affected by the Islamist group’s increasingly deadly, five-year insurgency.
On April 14, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 teenaged girls from their dormitories at a boarding school in Chibok, triggering global outrage and an international response to find the students.
At least 20 young mothers from a nomadic settlement in and around the village of Garkin Fulani were also reported kidnapped on June 7, although it has since been claimed that the disappearances could be due to annual migration.
The secretary of the Damboa local government, Modu Mustapha, neither confirmed nor denied the abductions, while the authority’s chairman, Alamin Mohammed, was not immediately available.
Officials said they were afraid to speak out because of the controversy surrounding the abduction of the Chibok girls, which has seen Nigeria’s government criticised for its initial slow response to the incident.
But Aji Khalil, a local vigilante leader said: “Over 60 women were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. They were forcefully taken away by Boko Haram terrorists.
“Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot.”
Another resident, who fled to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri and also requested anonymity, said: “Over 30 men were killed during the raid which lasted for nearly four days. Most men fled for their lives.
“The attackers held the whole village hostage for the next three days.”