- HRW urges President Buhari to bring back the 300 school children kidnapped in Damasak by Boko Haram in late 2014
- The Human right group says the initial calls to report the kidnapping were ignored with locals scared of the government's response
- This is as a result of the govt's inability to discover the location of 276 schoolgirls who were taken from Chibok in April 2014
An unreported kidnap in late 2014 has been allegedly discovered. This follows an investigation by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that Boko Haram seized hundreds of children from Damasak, a remote town in northeast Nigeria.
It was learnt that the initial calls to report the kidnapping were ignored with locals scared of the government's response.
This follows the inability of the government to discover the location of 276 schoolgirls who were taken from Chibok in April the same year, which drew worldwide condemnation and calls for action.
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Speaking to AFP on Wednesday, March 30, a local government administrator said some 300 children were among the 500 girls, boys and women taken from Damasak on Monday November 24, 2014.
According to the administrator, his seven-year-old child was among those abducted.
He said on the condition of anonymity: "We kept quiet on the kidnap out of fear of drawing the wrath of the government, which was already grappling with the embarrassment of the kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls.
"Every parent was afraid to speak out.
“Locals who managed to flee alerted their political representatives in the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives but they kept mute and ignored us.
"The government didn't want the news out.
"They went to the private school and Islamic seminaries and carted away children as young as five.
"They also went into town and forcibly seized children from their mothers, children too old to be breastfed. My 16 nephews were among the children kidnapped. They were aged between five and 16.
“Hundreds fled across the river that separates Damasak from Diffa in neighbouring Niger but many drowned. We returned to bury over 200 dead bodies in mass graves.
“The insurgents killed more than 200 in the initial attack, which happened on market day.”
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The administrator noted that his decision to speak out publicly came after Human Rights Watch highlighted the case on Tuesday, March 29.
According to HRW’s investigation, Boko Haram occupied Zanna Mobarti Primary School in Damasak in November 2014 after taking control of the town. More than 300 students were inside and, over the following months, the militants banned teaching in English and forced their captives to learn the Koran.
When soldiers from neighbouring Chad and Niger advanced on Damasak in March 2014, Boko Haram militants fled the town, taking with them the 300 schoolchildren and around 100 more women and children who were also being held captive.
HRW's senior Nigeria researcher Mausi Segun, however, said while Boko Haram's abductions could not be justified, President Muhammadu Buhari's government, in power since May last year, also had to act.
"Three hundred children have been missing for a year and yet there has been not a word from the Nigerian government," she said in a statement.
"The authorities need to wake up and find out where the Damasak children and other captives are and take urgent steps to free them."
The former president Goodluck Jonathan in March last year had denied reports of the Damasak.
According to him, there was no fresh abduction in Damasak.
But since the emergence of Boko Haram insurgency, at least 17,000 people have lost their lives in six years. This is perhaps why the US military once regarded the Islamic terrorist group as the most lethal violent extremist group in the world.