By Felix Onuah and Lanre Ola
(Reuters) – Nigerian security forces are investigating a possible mass kidnapping of villagers in the northeast state of Borno where Boko Haram Islamist militants abducted more than 200 schoolgirls two months ago, a security source said on Tuesday.
If confirmed, the latest abduction would fuel public frustration over Abuja’s inability to quell Boko Haram’s five-year campaign to carve out an Islamist state in the mainly Muslim north.
Military officials are looking into reports suspected Islamist insurgents over the weekend raided at least three villages 100 km (60 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri, the source added.
Two residents of the nearby village of Lassa, which wasn’t attacked, told Reuters they spoke to people who reportedly fled as militants killed men and kidnapped “many” women and children.
Nigerian media reported that as many as 91 villagers had been abducted, most of them women and young girls. Reuters was unable to verify these accounts independently.
Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in bomb and gun attacks, initially focused on government and security targets, as well as churches and Muslim leaders that rejected its brand of Islam.
But recently it has increasingly targeted civilians, emboldened by global publicity after it kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school in the remote Borno village of Chibok in April.
The abduction of the girls triggered worldwide outcry and sparked a “Bring back our girls” campaign among celebrities, politicians and on social media.
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as “Western education is sinful” has killed thousands since 2009. Amnesty International estimates about 1,500 people have been killed in northeast Nigeria in the first three months of this year.
Separately, at least eight people were killed and 20 wounded by an explosion at a college campus in the heart of the northern city of Kano during school hours on Monday.
(Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Ralph Boulton)(Reuters)