Suicide attacker poses as student in Northeast Nigeria; nearly 50 students killed
The Islamist sect Boko Haram is intensifying its activities with the kidnappings and deadly raids in Nigeria’s northeast. In the latest attack, as many as 50 students were killed when a suicide attacker detonated a bomb at their school during morning assembly.
Late last month the Nigerian government announced that it had reached a truce with the Islamist sect Boko Haram. The government’s announcement that the truce calls for the militants to release more than 200 school girls abducted from their dormitories in April raised some hopes. But Boko Haram dashed this hope last week when it said it never negotiated with the government in the first place. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos that many doubt any real agreement was ever reached.
Since late last month when the government announced a purported ceasefire with Boko Haram, the group has continued to carry out deadly attacks on villages in North Eastern Nigeria. In Potiskum, at least 46 students died and about 80 others were injured when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at a government school on Monday. The attacker dressed as a student and infiltrated the school’s morning assembly.
In recent weeks, Boko Haram has carried out more abductions in the region. Local officials in the village of Mafa report that 30 children, both boys and girls — the youngest 11 years-old — were forcibly taken from their village late last month. Reports from the remote area are slow to emerge. More than 70 others, mainly young girls, were abducted during two of separate attacks just days before. The continued attacks lead many to doubt any agreement between the government and Boko Haram to release hundreds of girls kidnapped in April.
Betty Abah is founder of CEE-HOPE, a Nigerian group protecting the rights of young people. She says the abductions were an indication that the ceasefire is not holding.
“One of the basis of the ceasefire, as we heard was the release of the girls but instead we have had two more abductions which is a clear breach of one of the conditions for the cease fire,” Abah says. “So at this point, we are even confused, we don’t know if we are even dealing with the real Boko Haram or some impostors.”
In April, Boko Haram abducted more than 275 school girls from their dormitories at a government owned school in Chibok. Activists campaigning for the release of the abducted girls estimate as many as one thousand girls are currently held captive by Boko Haram. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch detailed how Boko Haram violates the rights of the girls. While the government has not yet rescued any of the girls, a few have managed to escape. One girl describes her ordeal.
“One of them raped me,” recalls one young girl who’s identity is being withheld for her protection. “I begged him to be merciful, to be merciful for the sake of my baby. He refused to listen, he said I should drop the baby … so I dropped the baby.”
The account of another unnamed girl confirms the belief that Boko Haram is holding a large number of young women and girls.
“At the place there were several women staying there,” the girls says. “Some were already married to the insurgents in their hometowns while the other were brought there and were married off.”
For many like Abah, kidnapping young girls has become a key tactic Boko Haram uses in its insurgency against the Nigerian government.
“The abductions looks like they are using it as a weapon of war to hold the government to ransom,” she explains. “The girls are the victims and we have hundreds of girls whose future has been put on a hold, who are being traumatized, who are being violated every day whose future is clearly uncertain and for some reasons, government is unable to affect their release.”
“After several days of uncertainty about the truce, Boko Haram released a video saying that it never had any peace talks with the government. There’s little verifiable information about the Islamist group and its makeup. Some security analysts say that the group is now fractured and without leadership, a dynamic that would complicate negotiations.
Mausi Segun of Human Rights Watch says something has to be done to address the plight of the girls.
“These women need justice for the crimes that they have suffered, they need information about how to access the medical attention that they need and also to receive the psychological counselling that would help them,” says Segun.
Families of girls abducted by Boko Haram have been thrown into further agony following Boko Haram’s announcement that it did not reached a truce with the government after all. But the government continues to assure the nation that it is stepping up efforts to free the girls.
With so little evidence that the government is taking any concrete action to release the girls, and so many false promises in the past, many in Nigeria find it difficult to believe the government at all.