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UPDATE 4-Families of kidnapped Nigerian boys fear time running out

GlobalDec 17, 2020 00:18
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* More than 300 boys abducted from their school last week
* Islamist militants claim responsibility -audiotape
* Parents fear painful saga like 2014 schoolgirls' abduction

(Adds governor's comment on location of the boys)
By Afolabi Sotunde
KANKARA, Nigeria, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Families of more than
300 kidnapped Nigerian schoolboys worried they may be
radicalised or held for years as security forces combed a vast
forest on Wednesday for armed captors possibly from the jihadist
Boko Haram movement.
According to an unverified audio clip, the group - whose
name means "Western education is forbidden" - was responsible
for last week's raid on an all-boys school in the town of
Kankara in northwestern Katsina state. Parents fear time may be running out: Boko Haram has a
history of turning captives into jihadist fighters.
"They will radicalise our children if the government does
not act fast to help us rescue them," said trader Shuaibu
Kankara, crying as he spoke from home.
His 13-year-old son, Annas, was among those abducted from
the Government Science school on Friday night.
Two other sons managed to escape, he added, when men on
motorbikes with AK-47 assault rifles stormed the school and
marched the boys into a forest. Some experts feared the boys could be taken over the border
into Niger or at least split into groups to make finding them
Late on Wednesday, Katsina state Governor Aminu Bello Masari
told the BBC Hausa service that the estimated 320 missing boys
were in the forests of neighbouring Zamfara state.
Earlier in the day, an aide to Masari said soldiers and
intelligence officers had been combing the Rugu forest, which
stretches across Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states, in
search of the boys.
Boko Haram and its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa
Province, have waged a decade-long insurgency estimated to have
displaced about 2 million people and killed more than 30,000.
They want to create states based on their extreme interpretation
of sharia law. If Boko Haram carried out the kidnapping in an area where it
had not previously claimed attacks, it would mark an alarming
expansion beyond its northeastern base, security experts say.
But it may alternatively have purchased the boys from criminal
gangs in the northwest with which it has been building ties.
Vincent Foucher, a security analyst at the French National
Centre for Scientific Research, said Boko Haram earlier this
year released videos in which it said groups in the northwest
had pledged allegiance to its movement.

The abduction echoes Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of more
than 270 schoolgirls in the northeastern town of Chibok. The
attack gave rise to a global #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Six years on, only about half the girls have been found or
freed. Others were married off to fighters, while some are
assumed to be dead.
"We pray it's not going to be another situation of the
Chibok girls' abduction," said Ahmed Bakori, a farmer whose
14-year-old son, Abubakar, was among those taken.
About two dozen parents came to the Government Science
compound on Wednesday and prayed in the school mosque. The
compound, composed of white single-storey buildings built on
dusty red soil, was quiet.
Abubakar Lawal, who has two children among the captives,
said he did not believe Boko Haram's claim and would wait with
patience and prayers. "The government has to do diplomacy in a
way to rescue these people," he said outside the school.
The attack is awkward for President Muhammadu Buhari, who
comes from Katsina and arrived on a private visit hours before
the kidnapping. Buhari has repeatedly said that Boko Haram has
been "technically defeated."
A former military ruler, Buhari was elected in 2015 in large
part due to his pledge to crush the insurgency. Under his
predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, Boko Haram grew in strength and
controlled territory around the size of Belgium.
Across the nation, anger and anxiety were building over the
abductions, with #BringBackOurBoys trending on Twitter.
Military spokesman John Enenche said troops were determined
to rescue the boys alive and had no evidence any were dead.
He gave new details of the school attack and subsequent
firefight with guards. Soldiers arrived but could only shoot in
the air as the assailants used the boys as shields.
Jacob Zenn, a Boko Haram expert at the U.S.-based Jamestown
Foundation think tank, said the longer the boys were with their
captors, the likelier their indoctrination would be. He cited
the example of some Chibok girls who chose to stay with Boko
"The longer this goes on, the more pressure will grow on the
government to negotiate, and the more leverage the militants
will have over the government," he added.

FACTBOX-The violence and insecurity affecting Nigeria
is Boko Haram? escaped through forest after gunmen abducted their friends
at Nigeria school ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

UPDATE 4-Families of kidnapped Nigerian boys fear time running out

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