Desperate Nigerian parents have pleaded for an end to their “nightmare” after Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped more than 100 girls from a secondary school in the embattled northeast of the country.
The mass abduction by heavily armed insurgents from the Chibok area of Borno state late Monday came just hours after a bomb ripped through a packed bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, killing 75 people, the deadliest attack ever in the capital.
The bombing was also blamed on Boko Haram, a group whose five-year extremist uprising has shaken Africa’s most populous country and top economy.
“They took away my daughter,” said one woman from Chibok on Wednesday, who like several parents requested anonymity given the uncertain fate of the children.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said, urging the government to find the kidnappers. “They should not allow our daughters’ dreams to be shattered by these murderers.”
A father who said his daughter was taken in the attack described the ordeal as a “nightmare.”
“The whole town is in mourning,” he said from Chibok.
The gunmen stormed the Government Girls Secondary School after sundown on Monday, torching several buildings before opening fire on security forces guarding the school.
Boko Haram, whose named means “Western education is forbidden”, has repeatedly attacked schools and universities in an insurgency that has killed thousands of people since 2009.
Intensifying violence in the group’s northeastern stronghold has forced school closures across the region.
Witnesses said the gunmen killed a police officer and soldier in the shootout and ultimately forced their way into the school.
They then forced the girls outside and loaded them on to trucks and drove off into the bush of the remote region.
A senior security source, who said than more than 100 girls were taken, told AFP troops were pursuing the Islamists.
Nigeria has said its fight against Boko Haram has been hindered by the porous borders it shares with its northeastern neighbours, including Cameroon and Niger, with the Islamists evading pursuit by slipping through unmanned posts.