ABUJA - Authorities in Nigeria say more than 60 women kidnapped in mid-June escaped during the weekend from their presumed Boko Haram captors. But hundreds of other girls kidnapped in April remain missing. Women and girls were kidnapped when Boko Haram attacked the village of Kummabza in northern Borno state.
The escape of the kidnapped women is one bright spot, but hundreds of other girls kidnapped in April remain missing. And it appears the five-year-old Boko Haram insurgency is getting deadlier and more far reaching.
A vigilante fighting Boko Haram, Abbas Gava, said the captives fled Friday after militants left their camp to attack a military barracks and police station in the town of Damboa.
A high-level security source in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, said about half the women have returned to their homes, while the others were in the custody of soldiers in the town of Gulak.
Following the arrest of three women last week, Nigerian security forces said they were tracking a "female wing" of Boko Haram.
Tony Mezeh, who is a lawyer, said, "Right now in Nigeria the security situation is worsening and we are beginning to see the militants are women. They co-opt women in. They employ children, youths. So we do not know who is who."
He said usually confined to the northeast, the insurgency was also spreading geographically.
Since April, three bombs have killed more than 100 people in the Nigerian capital. Two of the attacks were in a bus station, and the third at a mall in a wealthy central neighborhood.
Boko Haram militants claimed responsibility for the first bus station bombing in late April, as well as abducting more than 200 schoolgirls, who remain missing.
General supervisor Dandison Nwankwa of the Izu Chukwu bus company in the oil-rich Niger Delta, said if militants ccould strike in the heart of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, he feared they may seek to attack the Niger Delta, the heart of the country's economy.
"We have put in place measures in our own internal security system to avert all these incidents happening in other places," said Nwankwa.
He said his company required every bus passenger to be searched before boarding and homeless people were no longer allowed to sleep in the bus station.
"Without searching, all the passengers will not be allowed to enter the vehicle until the vehicle decides to move, so that somebody will not infiltrate something inside the bus," said Nwankwa.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in five years of attacks. The group says it wants to impose its own harsh version of Islamic law, but most of its victims have been Muslims.
Lawyer Mezeh said churches have also been frequent targets, and many churches recently imposed bans on handbags, as part of non-government efforts to fight the insurgency.
"These measures that women should not carry bags to churches, people should not be allowed to sleep in motor-parks, people should not be allowed to sleep in [un]completed buildings. They are all pro-active measures to ensure that we do not allow these hoodlums to mill around us," he said.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil exporter, an industry that earns most of the country's national budget. Boko Haram has never attacked oil-producing regions in the south, but it has threatened to.
Boko Haram frequently carries out the terror it promises, but it has also made unrealistic threats, including against foreign heads-of-state, both living and dead.
(Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta and Abdulkareem Haruna contributed to this report from Maiduguri.)
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