NIGERIANS, who were struggling to free themselves from the horrific hangover of Monday’s suicide bombing, yesterday got another piece of bad news – the abduction of
100 girls at the Girls Senior Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State.
Eye witnesses recalled that the attack was like a scene from an action movie.
The gunmen stormed the town in the night, shooting and burning. There was commotion. They then invaded the school where they killed a soldier
and a policeman who were on guard.
The girls were preparing for their Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSSCE) when they were forcibly taken away by the gunmen around 3 a.m.,
The Nation learnt. Chibok is a town close to the boundary between
Borno and Adamawa states. It is on the edge of the Sambisa forest – the insurgent Boko Haram’s hideout.
The military has ordered troops to rescue the girls, who are believed to have been snatched by Boko Haram fighters. The sect detests Western education. Its name translates to “Western education is a sin”.
A resident, Joseph Walama, said the attackers were about 50, who stormed the town in a convoy of Toyota Hilux vehicles before
unleashing terror on residents.
“They started arriving the town from about 10 p.m. in a convoy of seven Hilux vehicles and took control of the town. They set fire on residential and public buildings,’’ Walama said.
He said the attackers engaged in mass looting of food items and harassed residents at will.
“Then they suddenly headed for the Senior Secondary School, Chibok, which is a WAEC examination centre.
“Some of the teachers and students took to their heels on sighting them, but they
eventually abducted those who remained in the hostel.
“They packed food items and the students into an abandoned lorry before heading for the Sambisa forest,’’ he said.
“Many girls were abducted by the rampaging gunmen who stormed the school in a convoy of vehicles,” Emmanuel Sam, an education official, told the French News Agency AFP Borno Commissioner of Police Lawal Tanko confirmed the attack but said he did not have details of the incident.
A local government official said he did not know how many of the girls have escaped but that “many” have walked through the bushes and back to Chibok. The girls were piled into the back of an open truck and, as it was traveling, some grabbed at low-hanging branches to swing off while others jumped off the slow- moving vehicle, he said.
All schools in Borno state were closed three weeks ago because of an increasing number of attacks by militants who have killed hundreds of pupils in the past year. But the young women — aged between 16 and 18 — were recalled to take their final exams, the local government official explained.
Abducting girls as sex slaves has become the stock in trade of the Boko Haram insurgents.
When they attacked the school in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, some of the girls were also taken away.
The Defence Headquarters yesterday ordered troops to liberate the girls.
Some of the girls who jumped out of the Hilux vehicles used to abduct them are also being protected by troops, it was learnt yesterday.
The Defence Headquarters denied that up to 200 girls were abducted. It said there were 129 girls in the school at the time the insurgents arrived.
DHQ spokesman Maj-Gen Chris Olukolade said: “When the incident was reported, troops were swiftly mobilised to liberate the girls.
The fact is that when they were being taken away, some of the girls jumped out of the vehicles and ran to the troops.
“These girls provided information on the route taken by their abductors. The route is being trailed as I am talking to you.”
He added: “The total number of girls in the school at that time was about 129. Not all the girls were abducted and some of those held by the insurgents escaped.
“So, the number was not up to 200. But our concern is that even if one school girl is abducted, we are determined to set such a person free from hostage by the insurgents.
Troops have been ordered to liberate these girls; we are tracking them.
“All the girls who escaped from the insurgents are now being protected by troops.”
A top security source said: “From the
courageous girls who escaped, we learnt that some of the insurgents are locals; they are known to them. It is something we are also investigating, to find out if there were issues in the area before the abduction.”
A girl, who managed to escape and wished not to be named, told the BBC she and fellow students were sleeping when armed men burst into their hostel.
“Three men came into our room and told us not to panic. We later found out later that they were among the attackers,” she said.
The girls said she and her schoolmates were taken away in a convoy, which had to slow down after some of the vehicles developed a fault. Around 10 to 15 girls seized the opportunity to escape.
“We ran into the bush and waited until
daybreak before we went back home,” she said.
THE NATION REPORT