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Boko Haram ‘abduct 500 women and children’ in Nigeria

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Boko Haram inflicted a final act of vengeance on a town in northern Nigeria, abducting up to 500 women and children as the gunmen fled a counter offensive, according to local people.
The insurgents rounded up their victims as they evacuated Damasak in the face of an attack by Chad’s army. If the reports are correct, this was one of the biggest incidents of mass kidnapping since the onset of Boko Haram’s campaign.
Last April, the Islamist gunmen captured at least 200 schoolgirls during a raid on the town of Chibok. The missing children have never been found. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, has repeatedly promised to sell his captives into slavery.
The latest incident occurred last week as Chadian forces advanced on Damasak, a town near Nigeria’s northern border which had endured months of occupation by Boko Haram. Local residents told Reuters news agency that as many as 506 women and children were seized by the fleeing insurgents.
James Duddridge, the junior Foreign Office minister responsible for Africa, said he was “appalled” by this report, adding: “I condemn Boko Haram’s abhorrent practice of abduction in the strongest terms and call for all those taken to be released immediately. The UK stands with Nigeria and its people at this difficult time, and will continue to support the region in countering the threat posed by Boko Haram.”
In the last two weeks, the armies of Chad and Nigeria have broken Boko Haram’s grip on more than 40 towns and villages, clearing the insurgents from a large area of Borno state. The intervention by Chad and the delivery of new weapons and helicopters to Nigeria’s army have combined to tip the military balance against the Islamists.
Yet the very success of the offensive increases the risk that Boko Haram might carry out more atrocities in revenge.
Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president, faces re-election on Saturday after postponing the polls because of the insurgency. On Wednesday, David Cameron wrote to Mr Jonathan, warning that any further delay “would risk national security and stability and adversely affect Nigeria’s international reputation”.
The Prime Minister said that Britain would give £5 million to a “Joint Task Force” created by the armies of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger to combat Boko Haram. Britain will also support a United Nations Resolution to “send an important message of international political support for the force”.

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