Nigeria Boko Haram crisis: '20 women abducted' in north

A picture taken from a video distributed to Nigerian journalists in the country's north and obtained by AFP on March 5, 2013 reportedly shows Abubakar Shekau (C), the suspected leader of Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram Image copyright AFP
Image caption A state of emergency was declared in the north-east a year ago but Boko Haram still remain strong

Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted at least 20 women close to where 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in northern Nigeria, eyewitnesses say.

The women were loaded on to vans at gunpoint and driven away to an unknown location in Borno state, they add.

The army has not commented on the incident, which occurred on the nomadic Garkin Fulani settlement on Thursday.

The Nigerian military has faced mounting criticism for failing to stop militant attacks in the north-east.

Despite a state of emergency in place in the region, residents say the army is largely inactive or even absent, allowing the Boko Haram militants to continue their attacks.

The group has waged an increasingly bloody insurgency since 2009 in an attempt to create an Islamic state in Nigeria - and thousands of people have died in their attacks and the subsequent security crackdown.

'Too late'

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Media captionTackling Boko Haram is one of President Jonathan's key challenges

The latest incident occurred close to where more than 200 schoolgirls were snatched from the remote Chibok town near the Cameroonian border on 14 April.

A member of a local vigilante group set up to resist such attacks said that in addition to the women, the militants also seized three men who had tried to stop the abduction.

"We tried to go after them when the news got to us about three hours later, but the vehicles we have could not go far, and the report came to us a little bit late," Alhaji Tar said.

The women are from a mainly Muslim community of cattle herders.

The government has been facing growing pressure both at home and abroad to do more to tackle Boko Haram since the abduction of the schoolgirls, who are mostly Christians.

On Monday, the military announced it had killed 50 insurgents in anti-terrorism operations in recent days and prevented further Islamist raids on villages in Borno and neighbouring Adamawa state.

It follows a wave of militant attacks on villages in recent days, with as many as 200 people feared killed in one attack alone in the remote Gwoza area of Borno state.

Local residents, now living rough in the Mandara mountains, told the BBC on Sunday the army had still not arrived in their villages a week after the first raid.

They say Boko Haram fighters have raised black and white jihadist flags in several villages and it is too dangerous for men to venture there so elderly women were been sent to bury the dead.

BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says the government appears reluctant to acknowledge the attacks in Gwoza, an area which is now a Boko Haram stronghold.

A new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council says 3,300 people have been killed by Boko Haram this year alone.

The UK government is due to host a ministerial meeting about northern Nigeria's security in London on 12 June, following on from last month's summit in Paris about tackling Boko Haram.

Who are Boko Haram?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has been designated a terrorist by the US government
  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education - Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria - also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Who are Boko Haram?

Profile: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram

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