Search Continues for More Than 100 Schoolgirls Abducted in Nigeria

As many as 200 teenage girls have been abducted in Nigeria by Islamist group Boko Haram as extremists continue a wave of violence across the country.

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[Update: 04/17/2014, 5:00 p.m.: The AFP news agency reports that the principal of the school where the girls were kidnapped from denies military reports that they have been safely returned. While a defense ministry spokesman said all but eight of the 129 students abducted were safe, principal Asabe Kwambura told the AFP that is false. "The report from the military is not true," she said, adding that the only correct information from government was that 14 girls had escaped after being kidnapped.] 

[Update, 1:04 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that all but 8 of the girls have been freed, and the army is continuing their search. The original story is below.]

More than 120 teenage girls have been abducted in Nigeria by Islamist group Boko Haram as a wave of extreme religious violence continues to plague the country. The Associated Press reported that about 100 pupils were taken from the Government Girls Secondary School school in Chibok, north-east Nigeria, on Monday night, while CNN reported that as many as 200 students were taken, but a more recent report from AFP says 129 were confirmed missing. It is believed they were taken to a Boko Haram stronghold, deep in the forests of northeast Nigeria.

The girls, aged between 16 and 18, were due to sit their final exams, according to local government officials. Around a dozen managed to escape from the back of a truck that was carrying them and made it back home.

The AP reports that Islamist extremists in Nigeria are likely kidnapping girls to be used as cooks and sex slaves, though it also a punishment for going to a school and attempting to get an education. In a March 23 recording, Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatened to abduct schoolgirls and launch raids, which prompted all schools in Borno state to close as a safety precaution. The Nigerian military are currently hunting for the students.

Boko Haram, which translates into "Western education is forbidden," is also believed to be responsible for an explosion at a bus station in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, during rush hour on Monday morning. At least 75 people were killed and 141 were injured in the blast. The National Counterterrorism Center says that the group seeks to overthrow the Nigerian government, and refers to itself as the "Nigerian Taliban." The BBC reports that Boko Haram have killed more than 1,500 civilians in three states in northeast Nigeria this year alone.

The Monday attack has sparked concern over the Nigerian military's ability to contain continuing violence after the group has targeted churches, mosques, and schools in what the AP calls “increasingly indiscriminate attacks.” Nigeria’s First Lady Patience Jonathan called for the release of the girls today, and said that the country has already suffered enough. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.