Kankara (Nigéria) (AFP)
The jihadist group Boko Haram released a video on Thursday purporting to show schoolchildren arrested in a mass kidnapping in northwest Nigeria last week.
Last Friday’s assault on a rural school in Kankara, Katsina state, was initially blamed on criminals, known as bandits, who have terrorized the area for years.
But on Tuesday, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the raid, which took place hundreds of kilometers (miles) from its stronghold in northeast Nigeria – the birthplace of a brutal ten-year-old insurgency.
A distraught teenager, speaking in English and Hausa in the video seen by AFP, said he was one of 520 students taken away by “the Abu Shekau gang”.
The teenager was surrounded by a large group of boys – some looking very young – clustered under a tree, looking dirty and exhausted.
The video was released with a recording of a voice resembling that of the group’s elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau, behind the 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok that sparked global outrage.
He reiterated Boko Haram’s claim of responsibility.
“I already posted an audio confirming that our people were doing God’s work, but people denied it,” the voice said. “Here are my men, and your children have spoken.
The video was sent to AFP through the same channel as previous Boko Haram messages.
– #Bringbackourboys’ –
The government did not immediately react to the group’s claims, nor did it confirm the exact number of missing children.
Two testimonies from different officials estimated the number of schoolchildren at 320 or 333.
Security sources told AFP on Wednesday that the operation was carried out on the orders of Boko Haram by a notorious local gangster called Awwalun Daudawa, together with Idi Minorti and Dankarami, two other crime bosses with strong supporters. local.
Experts recently warned of attempts by jihadists to forge an alliance with criminal gangs in the northwest.
Many parents of missing students in Kankara said they had long feared an attack, given the escalation of violence in the area.
“Our children told us that armed men would come to the school fence, but they never crossed the fence… until last Friday,” said Hauwa’u Isah, mother of an abducted child.
About 8,000 people have been killed in the northwest since 2011, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.
#BringBackOurBoys started trending on social media, referring to a similar hashtag after the Chibok kidnappings.
Small protests demanding the release of the boys took place in Katsina on Thursday as President Muhammadu Buhari visited the state.
“The reason we are here today is because we want to tell the federal government that what it is doing is not enough,” protester Jamilu Aliyu Turanci said.
“Mr. President has let us down. ”
Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari said Monday night that the kidnappers “had made contact with the government.”
“Talks are underway to ensure their safety and their return to their respective families,” he said on Twitter.
Parents have gathered at school every day since the kidnapping, desperate for any information on the fate of the children.
“I was about to leave last night when a boy who had escaped was brought here,” mother Murja Goma said.
“He said that they had no food to eat, that they lived on acacia leaves and fruits that their captors gathered from the trees for them.
“We have shed so many tears, our hearts are in mourning and we don’t even know what to do,” the woman said, calling on the government to save the children.
© 2020 AFP