A second kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria’s northeast by Islamist militants put new pressure on the country’s troubled government, which had been hoping to showcase its emergence as Africa’s largest economy this week but instead has been forced to confront its failure to contain a growing insurgency in its north.
Men suspected of being fighters from the radical group Boko Haram kidnapped 11 more girls in Nigeria’s northeast, local officials said Tuesday, an intensification of its campaign against female education and the Nigerian government since the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls three weeks ago.
The spectacle of red-shirted protesters in the streets of the capital here, angry at the government for its tepid response to the crisis, put President Goodluck Jonathan under an uncomfortable spotlight as executives from across the world arrived in private jets to attend the Africa meeting of the World Economic Forum, the continent’s answer to Davos.
The authorities here — and particularly the military, itself implicated in numerous massacres of civilians — appear to be floundering in their response to a crisis that social media have transformed into a cause célèbre. The new kidnappings underlined the inability of the Nigerian government to protect civilians from the growing insurgency. Not a single girl has been rescued so far.
In a sign of deepening global concern, on Tuesday the United States offered to provide a team of experts, including military and law enforcement officers, along with hostage negotiators and psychologists, to assist the Nigerians in recovering the girls, an offer that the government here accepted. American officials said “military resources” would not be included, but President Obama weighed in, vowing to “do everything we can.”
A viral social media campaign, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, has brought new infamy to Boko Haram, which has been operating in Nigeria for more than a decade. The group’s goal, never clearly enunciated, is to radically undermine the secular Nigerian state.
But never in a five-year campaign of bombings, civilian massacres and assaults on state schools have the attacks so shaken the government. The heightening concerns have led to daily antigovernment protests, which continued Tuesday with a demonstration outside defense headquarters here. In a sign of the government’s nervousness, several of the protest leaders were briefly arrested Monday.
In the latest kidnappings, more girls were taken from their homes late Sunday in the villages of Warabe and Wala, said Hamba Tada, an official in the area. Heavily armed militants descended from surrounding hills, stealing grain and livestock belonging to villagers, forcing the girls, ages 12 to 15, into an 18-seater bus, and warning locals not to alert the authorities.
Another local official confirmed the new abductions, though the area’s top police official, Lawan Tanko denied they had taken place. “By our record it’s not true,” he said in an interview from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.
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SOURCE: The New York Times