Earlier this month, late at night, insurgents captured more than 200 teenage girls from a school in northern Nigeria, an area of the country that has been infiltrated by the terror group Boko Haram.
The group targets schools, mosques, churches, villages, agricultural centres, and military bases. Its aim is to stop Westernization and create an Islamic state ruled by sharia law, a strict religious code of living.
Nigeria’s population is about half Muslim and half Christian. The extremists believe that northern Nigeria has been taken over by corrupt “false Muslims.”
About 187 of the schoolgirls, who went to a secular school, are still missing, and 43 managed to escape. The girls were reportedly staying in dormitories at the school when the Boko Haram attackers struck.
The girls are likely being used as sex slaves and cooks in a nearby forest, a hideout for the militants, according to local officials.
Parents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the military and aren’t very confident that they will be able to recover the girls, CNN reporter Vladimir Duthiers told Business Insider. Duthiers is in Nigeria and has spoken to some of the parents of the missing girls.
Their quotes are devastating. One mother told CNN: “I hoped that the soldiers would rescue my daughter and all of the others, but that hope has dissipated. … My life will be worthless without my daughter. There will never be peace in my life if I don’t have her back.”
Because so many girls were kidnapped, it will be very difficult to recover them. Air strikes and ground attacks from Nigerian forces could end up killing the innocent students, according to CNN. Boko Haram could have also taken them into neighbouring countries Chad or Niger.
“We’ve heard reports that parents have gone into the forest to get [the girls] back and have been told that if they go any further, they will be killed,” Duthiers said. “There are parents on the ground who say they haven’t seen the military all that active.”
Women who have been kidnapped by Boko Haram previously have been found in forest hideouts pregnant and married to their captors, CNN reports. Some of them had also been forcibly converted to Islam.
The map below shows where the girls who were taken from the school are reportedly being held. The Sambisa Forest is relatively close to the school in Chibok, the town marked by the smaller circle, and the insurgents likely herded the girls into vehicles to transport them during the kidnapping:
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful,” has been terrorizing Nigeria for about a decade.
The anti-West Islamist group is opposed to educating women because its version of sharia law calls for them to be in the home raising children and caring for their husbands, according to CNN. The group has been kidnapping girls as “retaliation” against Nigerian security forces who reportedly stole the wives and children of Boko Haram members.
In addition to kidnappings, Boko Haram insurgents carry out bombings and shootings.
CNN spoke with a young man who was injured in a Boko Haram bombing. His father was killed years prior in a shooting attack, he said.
Watch the interview here:
Boko Haram attacks are no longer restricted just to northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram was born.
This map from Reuters shows the range of Boko Haram’s terror:
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