MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — At least 42 women have been abducted by Islamic extremist rebels during an attack in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, locals told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The rebels attacked the women as they gathered firewood in the Jere district of Borno, which is the epicenter of a 14-year-long insurgency launched by the extremist group known as Boko Haram, according to a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force local security group who identified himself as Abba.
Locals also said the victims were from a camp for internally displaced persons in the neighboring Mafa district and had been selling firewood to boost their income as economic hardship in Nigeria under the new president bites harder.
Kachalla Maidugu, a government spokesman in the district, confirmed the incident that occurred on Tuesday but was only reported late Wednesday. “We received information yesterday that 46 women were abducted, but only four were allowed to return home while 42 were held back,” said Maidugu.
He also said the rebels have demanded a ransom of 50,000 naira ($55) for each woman though the locals were negotiating for less amounts of money to pay for the women's freedom.
The latest abduction by the extremists occurred hours after they had ambushed security forces protecting farmers in the area, according to Abba with the local security group.
Boko Haram, Nigeria’s homegrown jihadi rebels, launched an insurgency in 2009 to fight against western education and to establish Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria. At least 35,000 people have been killed and 2.1 million people displaced as a result of the extremist violence, according to data from U.N. agencies in Nigeria.