ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Islamic extremists kidnapped 17 girls in northeastern Nigeria, witnesses said Saturday, as the African country’s armed forces said they were “fully determined to defeat terrorism.”
Members of the Islamist group Boko Haram attacked the Chibok village of Pemi in Borno state on Thursday, two residents told The Associated Press.
Boko Haram has waged an insurgency against the Nigerian government in that state for a decade.
In a statement late Friday, the Islamic State group claimed to have killed “a large number of Christians” and set fire to two churches and several houses.
Authorities blame Boko Haram for the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Nigeria and several neighboring countries.
The Pemi kidnapping is reminiscent of the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls in Chibok, a remote town 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. More than 100 of those girls are still missing.
The militants attacked a church and Christian villagers upon arriving in Pemi on Thursday, local leader Hassan Chibok said.
“They were shooting wildly after they had surrounded the community,” Chibok said. “Some of them were left with no way to escape, so they kidnapped 17 girls,” he added. Eight of the minors were from the same house.
Neither the Nigerian military nor the government immediately responded to requests for comment.
Another resident, Yana Galang, recounted that the extremists demolished a church and attacked nearby houses. “Some (of the kidnapped girls) are 10, 11 or 12 years old,” Galang said.
The militiamen “simply parked their vehicle near the school, went in and took the girls out and put them on board,” he added.
A Nigerian military spokesman, Onyema Nwachukwu, told The Associated Press on Friday that the insurgents are “desperate” to increase their influence. He was commenting on video from a Boko Haram splinter group that allegedly shows child soldiers executing Nigerian soldiers.
“Underwhelmed by our troops and amid internal conflict, Boko Haram terrorists are, in a desperate move, launching a recruitment drive to attract child soldiers, whom they can easily indoctrinate, manipulate and financially control,” Nwachukwu stated.