05/06/2014, 00.00
NIGERIA - ISLAM
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Boko Haram abducts high school girls, sells them as slaves and wives "by Allah"

After their capture, 53 of the 276 abducted girls managed to escape. Now they are praying for their schoolmates, who might be sold in Chad, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries for $ 12. Boko Haram's arsenal is more modern and sophisticated than that of Nigeria's regular army. Its actions could influence upcoming elections.

Lagos (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Islamist group Boko Haram claimed responsibility yesterday for the abduction of more than two hundred girls from their boarding school on 14 April in northern Nigeria, claiming that they did it "by Allah" in order to sell them into slavery or forcibly marry them off.

"I abducted your girls," Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video in which he boasts of his success in abducting 276 schoolgirls from their dormitory in Chibok (Borno state), mostly between 16 and 18 years. Some 53 of them managed however to escape and return home.

"Girls, you should go and get married," he is also heard saying, dressed in fatigues, standing in front of an armoured vehicle and two vans with two machine guns; six armed men, their faces covered, flanking him.

Although the images are blurry, the Islamist chief is clearly recognisable in the 57-minute video, "I will sell them in the market, by Allah," Shekau also said, adding that "Western education should end," and "I will marry off a woman at the age of 12. I will marry off a girl at the age of nine."

In the first part of the video, Shekau also expressed his contempt for democracy, Western education and those who do not believe in Islam.

According to local unconfirmed reports, the victims might have already been taken across the border into Cameroon and Chad. Other reports last week said that some of the girls were sold for US$ 12.

Over the past two years, Boko Haram (which means 'Western education is sinful') has carried out a series of terrorist attacks against churches, schools and places where Christians and Muslims meet, killing more than 1,500 people.

Many Nigerians are frustrated by the inability of their government, police and armed forces to ensure security and defeat the Islamist group that, according to observers, has more modern and sophisticated weapons and equipment than the regular army.

"I'm so sad now because when I'm at home I think about all my school friends who are there in the bush," said one of the girls that managed to escape. "I hope they are set free. We are all praying for God to release them so they come back home."

As Nigerians get ready to go to the polls next year, "It is also feared that Boko Haram could escalate attacks to undermine the elections," said the International Crisis Group (ICG) in its latest report on the insecurity plaguing Nigeria.

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