John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Boko Haram Kidnaps Nigerian School Girls

by John Campbell
April 17, 2014

A school girl walks past a burnt building in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, August 3, 2009. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuteres)


A Boko Haram warlord Abubakar Shekau, in his latest video reiterated his war on western education, as well as calling for antigovernment operations throughout Nigeria, with specific reference to Abuja, Lagos, and oil producing areas. Over the past month, there have been successful large-scale operations against the security services in Maiduguri (Giwa Barracks, March 14), in Abuja (an attack on the State Security Services’ headquarters, March 30) and the attack on the Abuja suburb bus station on April 14. At the same time, there are reports of numerous, smaller Boko Haram operations.

The kidnapping of a large number of girls on April 15 who were studying for their final exams seems to be part of the pattern of escalating and accelerating Boko Haram activity. Because of Boko Haram depredations, Borno has closed all of its secondary schools. But the educational authorities convened the girls to a boarding school to take their final exams, necessary if they were to proceed to university or other higher education. That, apparently, is why there were so many (an estimated three hundred) at one place. Boko Haram may have kidnapped more than two hundred of them in the April 15 incident. Some–how many is unknown–seem to have escaped. What has happened to the others, and how many there are, is not known at this time. There are however, conflicting statements as to the girls’ fate.

Details about the kidnapping are unclear. One report says that the kidnappers arrived at the boarding school late at night dressed in military clothing. They told the girls that the school was in danger of attack and that they would take them to a safe place. Apparently the girls voluntarily boarded buses and trucks. But, subsequently some of the girls became suspicious and managed to escape. In the past, Boko Haram has kidnapped girls and used them as maids or cooks and for other purposes. In his latest video, Shekau reiterated that girls should not be educated. Perhaps more worrying, he states that “in Islam it is allowed to take infidel women as slaves and in due course we will start taking women away and sell in the market.” Boko Haram has long been especially hostile to education for women but does not kill them with alacrity. In previous attacks on boarding schools, Boko Haram has murdered the boys but spared the girls, telling them to return home and find husbands.

This kidnapping operation, horrific though it is, may have little  impact on Nigerian elite perceptions because it occurred in a traditional area of Boko Haram operations. By contrast, Abuja has been relatively free of Boko Haram attacks for the past two years. But, in the aftermath of the bus station bombing, it can no longer be regarded as safe as it had been.

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  • Posted by Abdulrazak Ibrahim

    Meanwhile Nigeria’s president and his friends in government continue to party.

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