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Reports: Boko Haram Kidnaps Hundreds in NE Nigeria

  • VOA News

A rocket propelled launcher hangs on the mirror of a pickup truck in the Nigerian city of Damasak March 18, 2015.

A rocket propelled launcher hangs on the mirror of a pickup truck in the Nigerian city of Damasak March 18, 2015.

Officials in Nigeria say Boko Haram militants have kidnapped hundreds of people, including many children, from a town on the border with Niger.

Nigerian government spokesman Mike Omeri tells The Associated Press that militants abducted residents of Damasak in Borno state as they withdrew from the town earlier this month.

Omeri said the Islamist extremists went to Damasak's primary schools, rounded up students and teachers and then retreated.

The spokesman said he could not specify how many people were kidnapped, but local residents put the number as high as 500.

News of the kidnappings come as Nigerians prepare to go to the polls Saturday for presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Nigerian government said Wednesday that the country's land and sea borders will be closed at midnight, local time, and remained closed until midnight on March 28. It said the move is designed "to allow for peaceful conduct of the forthcoming national elections."

The vote was delayed from mid-February because of insecurity in the northeast, where the Boko Haram insurgency has raged since 2009.

Boko Haram provoked an international outcry last year when it kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from a government-run secondary school in the Borno state town of Chibok. The girls have yet to be found.

Nigeria's military says an ongoing multinational offensive has retaken most towns that were held by the Islamist extremists. The militants are said to have lost all their territory in Yobe and Adamawa state, leaving them in control of only small parts of Borno.

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