Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist terror group, has rounded up hundreds of women and children and imprisoned them in a school following what appears to be its deadliest attack, survivors and a local official said.
Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, now in its sixth year, has displaced 1.5 million people, according to the U.N. The highest-profile attack was the kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls last year, which inspired the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
At least 3,700 buildings were razed in the Baga attack. About 2,000 people were left missing, and thousands more were forced to flee their homes.
Boko Haram has kidnapped countless women in the past, possibly to use as cooks and wives for its fighters. Experts and locals said that three recent bombings by children suggest that the sect is now forcing female abductees to blow themselves up in suicide attacks.
But the mass detention in Baga casts some doubt on reports that 2,000 people were killed in the attack, Zanna said. He said it is unclear how many of these missing people were in detention, such as those in the school, or had fled to neighboring Chad. The Nigerian government says the death toll in Baga was closer to 150.
With Nigerian elections a month away, President Goodluck Jonathan made an unscheduled visit last week Thursday to the northeastern city of Maiduguri, where many people displaced by Boko Haram-related violence have fled.
In a speech filmed by Reuters, he sought to assure the displaced that “government is working very hard to make sure that you don’t stay in these camps for too long.”
Many Nigerians in the Muslim-majority north feel that Jonathan, has been far too quiet on the Boko Haram crisis. Zanna, the local senator, who recently defected from PDP to APC, said he was “very, very skeptical” about the timing of the visit.
Reuters contributed to this report.