Conflict & Justice

Why Nigeria's government can't prevent the kidnapping of 100 teenage school girls

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Credit: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Abuja residents react as victims of a bomb blast arrive at a local hospital this week.

Teenage girls who head off to school in some parts of remote northern Nigeria take a big gamble: They might be kidnapped. 

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

That's what happened to more than 100 young women at a school in the town of Chibok this week. 

Their mass abduction comes on the heels of a blast Monday morning at a busy transit station in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, that killed more than 70 people. A ruthless group of Islamic extremists called Boko Haram is thought to be behind both attacks. 

Omoyele Soworethe publisher of SaharaReporters.com, a website of citizen journalists, says Nigeria's government's efforts to combat Boko Haram have been woefully inadequate. 

"What people don't get is that Nigeria is lacking in leadership and resources to deal with this effectively," Sowore says. "Nigerian authorities have always claimed that the Boko Haram insurgency will be over by April. But it now sounds like 'April Fools.'"

Sowore says the abductions in Chibok took place over six hours — from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. — and involved several trips to the school. But authorities did little to intervene on the girls' behalf. 

"The only girls who have so far returned home were the ones who braved the odds and jumped off the truck and came home," he says. 

Sowore warns that the abductions could escalate into a regional crisis, because Boko Haram has also been behind kidnappings in neighboring Cameroon. 

School girls aren't the group's only targets, either. Sowore notes he can no longer openly return to Nigeria because SaharaReporters.com's reporting has angered both Nigerian authorities and Boko Haram. And he says Boko Haram has gone so far as to threaten to bomb the offices of SaharaReporters.com in New York. 

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