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Boko Haram kidnaps women, children

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IN retaliation for the arrest of members’ wives and relatives, the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, announced on Monday that it had kidnapped some women, young girls and children.

BBC report quoted leader of the sect, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, to have said in a video just released that the sect was holding the hostages until relatives of members in custody were released.

“If they do not leave our wives and children, we will not leave them,” Shekau was quoted as saying. He was said to have said that anyone taken by the group could begin a new life as a “servant,” without going into detail.

The BBC report also said the video showed women and children purportedly being held.

In the video, a Kalashnikov assault rifle sits over Shekau’s right shoulder as he speaks while the background is covered with a rug. “It’s unclear when the video was shot,” the report said.

“In the video, Mr. Shekau also said the group was behind two recent attacks in the North-East, which left an estimated 240 people dead.”

Reacting to the development, Director of the Defence Information, Brig.- General Chris Olukolade, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that Boko Haram should leave innocent civilians out of its conflict with the government.

Olukolade said, “We will continue to do our jobs as enshrined in the constitution of this country. Nobody can blackmail us; they (Boko Haram) should stop this criminal conduct.”

“They should stop terrorising innocent people; we will not be blackmailed from doing our work.

“They should leave the innocent civilians out of this. The military will continue to do its work to provide security for Nigeria.”

However, there have been no cases of abduction of women and children announced by the security agencies.

The BBC report equally said, “Mr. Shekau confirmed that the group had carried out a series of attacks in recent weeks, including a raid on  May 7 by about 200 heavily-armed men on Bama village, in Borno State, near Nigeria’s north-eastern border with Cameroon.

“We are the ones that carried out the Bama attack,” he said.

Shekau also admitted that members of the sect also carried out a “small operation” on the northern town of Baga on April 16.

He equally dismissed claims that sect members were killed in a shoot-out with security forces as “lies.”

“None of our people was killed in Baga,” Shekau added.

The Nigerian Army had said its men killed 30 Boko Haram members in Baga, while one soldier and six civilians also died.

Human rights groups had accused the security forces of retaliating with excessive force, killing nearly 200 people and setting fire to many buildings in the town, an allegation the authorities had denied.

In April, Boko Haram had released a French family of seven that were abducted in Cameroon in the first cross-border attack carried out by the group.

Reuters had quoted a confidential Nigerian government report, seen by it, to have revealed that Boko Haram was paid more than $3m to free the hostages.

Both France and Cameroon denied paying a ransom.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan again on Monday met behind closed-doors with security chiefs on how best to tackle the security challenges being faced in parts of the country.

The meeting was a continuation of an earlier one he had with the security chiefs on Friday shortly after he returned from his trip to South Africa.

Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Said, led the security chiefs that included the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, to the early morning meeting that ended around 10am.

The heads of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Department of State Service and other key government officials also attended the meeting.

As usual, none of the security chiefs spoke with journalists at the end of the meeting.

At the time of filing this report, there was no official statement from the Presidency on the meeting.

Also on Monday, the Senate Committees on Defence and Army, Security and Intelligence met to consider available options on the way out of the state of insecurity in the country.

Members of the committee who held the meeting behind closed doors were to consider details of an on-the-spot assessment of the situation they met on ground at Baga.

Chairman Senate Committee on Defence and Army, Senator George Sekibo, confirmed that the meeting held.

He said, “We held a meeting, it is all about the security situation in the country. That is all I can say for now.”

The meeting is coming after a recent tour of Baga and Bama communities in Borno State where clashes between security forces and insurgents led to the loss of dozens of lives.

There were allegations that an operation by the JTF led to the death of several innocent citizens numbering over 200 in Baga.

The soldiers were alleged to have reacted badly to the killing of one of their men. The military has since denied the allegations.

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