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Sun Sep 21 04:03:28 SAST 2014

'Girls sold off for R130'

©The Daily Telegraph | 02 May, 2014 07:04
A man weeps as he joins parents of kidnapped school girls during a meeting with the Borno State governor in Chibok, Maiduguri, Borno State April 22, 2014.
Image by: AFOLABI SOTUNDE / REUTERS

Dozens of schoolgirls abducted by Islamist fighters in Nigeria have been trafficked to neighbouring countries and forced to marry their kidnappers, it was reported this week.

In response, protesters have marched on Nigeria's parliament to decry the government's lax reaction to the raid, and a "million woman" march is planned.

A local elder said Boko Haram militants had been seen crossing the borders into Chad and Cameroon with the pupils in tow.

Pogo Bitrus, a local leader in Chibok, where the raided boarding school is located, said the girls were sold as brides to Islamist fighters for £7.50 (about R130) each.

He said locals had been tracking the movements of the hostages with the help of "various sources" since their abduction about two weeks ago.

His report could not be independently confirmed but it was echoed by Halite Aliyu, the leader of a local civil society group, the BornoYobe People's Forum.

She said villagers in the Sambisa Forest, a remote area on Nigeria's border with Cameroon where Boko Haram is known to have camps, had also told parents of such sightings.

Nigerian authorities have said the search for the girls is continuing and that it called a "crisis meeting" last week.

Activists have called for a "million woman" march in the capital, Abuja, to pressure the government into intensifying its response.

Hajia Nana Kashim Shettima, the first lady of Borno state, where the town of Chibok is located, appealed " to [the wives] of security chiefs at the national and state level to run and mount pressures on your spouses to intensify efforts to rescue our dear children" .

She added: "Let us all put our differences aside irrespective of our faith [and ethnicity], and let us all join hands to rescue these girls."

The apparent complacency of President Goodluck Jonathan's government has also drawn outrage on Twitter, with some users expressing doubt that there is any rescue operation under way at all.

Under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, one, @toluogunlesi, wrote: "The tragedy is that the question is not: 'Will they find them?' but instead 'Are they looking for them?'"

The local government in Borno claims 129 girls were kidnapped. Officials said 52 had since escaped. But the girls' families and the school principal insist 230 students were abducted and 187 are still being held hostage.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, parents and other family members tried to approach a known encampment in the area. But locals urged them to turn back, saying their bows and arrows would be no match for the militants' guns.

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Sun Sep 21 04:03:28 SAST 2014 ::