- (Photo: Afolabi Sotunde / Reuters)
Some of the approximately 200 school girls that remain missing as the result of a kidnapping by a militant group that took place in Nigeria's northeastern town of Chibok more than two weeks ago have been transferred to neighboring Cameroon and Chad, according to several news sources. Also, they are being forced to marry Islamic extremists, a civil society group said Wednesday.
While reports have indicated that some of the 234 girls initially kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14 escaped, villagers near the Nigeria-Cameroon border say they have seen girls on board buses heading to Cameroon, according to World Watch Monitor. BBC and other news agencies say a "bridegroom" of a girl was spotted. A bride price of $12.50 has been quoted. A local source in Cameroon told World Watch Monitor he confirms similar reports.
Halite Aliyu of the Borno-Yobe People's Forum told The Associated Press that parents say the girls are being sold to Boko Haram militants for 2,000 naira ($12).
On Thursday, several U.S. Senators introduced a resolution condemning the abduction of as many as 234 Nigerian school girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
"This heinous crime is an abomination and an affront to the civilized world," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. "I am additionally horrified to learn of reports that, for mere act of seeking an education, the kidnapped girls are being sold into child marriage, a despicable practice that may rob them of their dignity, health, and freedom. We and our African allies should do what we can to help the Nigerian government rescue these innocent girls from the barbaric Boko Haram and return them swiftly to their families."
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "This terrible act of brutality by Boko Haram in Nigeria must be condemned in the most forceful of terms. The targeting of civilians, including children, in places of refuge such as schools, churches and mosques, is abhorrent and unconscionable. We and our international partners must support Nigeria to hold the guilty parties accountable, prevent future tragedies from occurring, and address the underlying development challenges facing Nigeria."
While media coverage so far has been minimal in the U.S., outrage in Nigeria includes an estimated crowd of up to a million women rallying on Wednesday in the capital of Abuja showing support for the missing girls and their families, who are distraught at the latest reports. The Monitor reports that the rally organizers of the new movement called "Women for Peace and Justice" call for the Nigerian government to mobilize every resource to bring back the girls.
Boko Haram militants operating in Nigeria have found a safe haven in the semi-desert north of Cameroon.
Reports of the transfer of schoolgirls were also confirmed by a member the Chibok Elders Forum. Dr. Pogu Bitrus told the BBC that some of the teenage girls had been spotted being taken in trucks and canoes across the borders into Cameroon and Chad.
On the evening of April 14, the militants overran the Chibok Government Girls Secondary School where they overpowered the security guards and then herded at least 230 of the students onto trucks. They drove the girls, who are between the ages of 16 and 20, into the nearby Sambisa forest. Since then, only about 40 of them have managed to escape.
Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group that has targeted schools, mosques, churches, villages and agricultural centers in a campaign to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, is thought to have carried out the abduction. According to the Brookings Institute, Boko Haram burned down or destroyed 50 schools and killed approximately 30 teachers in Nigeria last year alone.
The Senate resolution introduced Thursday urges the U.S. to assist in efforts to rescue the students. It also encourages the Nigerian government to "strengthen efforts to protect children's ability to obtain an education and to hold those who conduct such violent attacks accountable."