Just eight of 129 teenage girls kidnapped late Tuesday from a Nigerian school in the country’s northeastern region had managed to escape as of late Wednesday. The fate of the rest still remains uncertain.
After more than a year of enduring near-daily bombings by the Islamic militia group known as Boko Haram, observers in Nigeria suspect the group is behind the abductions as well, particularly due to the school being close to where the group has orchestrated many of its most recent attacks.
“The targeting of schools and schoolchildren is a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement obtained by the BBC. “Schools are, and must remain, safe places where children can learn and grow in peace.”
About 170 houses were burned down in the attack, which Nigeria’s media reported had overwhelmed some 50 government soldiers stationed near the school and its hostel, where the teens had been sleeping. Seven soldiers died in the attack. The rest apparently fled.
Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden,” is responsible for hundreds of bombings in Nigeria over the past few years, mostly in the nation’s northern states. The violence has claimed more than 1,000 lives since just December.
Underage girls have been kidnapped before, local correspondents report, and the incidents have been chalked up to sexual slavery; never, however, have so many been taken at one time from one place.
On Monday, one of the group’s most recent bombings at a bus station in the country’s capital of Abuja claimed 71 lives. The aftermath of that attack is depicted in the photo above.
After Monday’s bombing in the capital, Human Rights Watch pinned a heaping of the blame on the Nigerian government for failing to investigate the attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice, which “is likely to exacerbate the cycle of violence.” Daniel Bekele, HRW’s Africa director, said in a statement:
“The lack of justice for years of violence resulting from inter-communal tensions has created a combustible situation. The government needs to ensure full criminal investigations and provide justice for the victims and their families.”
In December, just as the violence began to intensify, HRW released a 146-page report called “Leave Everything to God: Accountability for Inter-Communal Violence in Plateau and Kaduna States, Nigeria.” In it, a man from the state of Kaduna, who witnessed atrocities committed by Boko Haram in 2011, calls on his government, courts, police and military to do what they’ve been elected or appointed to do:
“I want to believe that if they had done justice, maybe a repeat of this wouldn’t have come. This time justice should be done.”
[Image courtesy of Human Rights Watch]