Boko Haram suspected of seizing 60 more Nigerian women and girls
Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys in weekend attacks on villages in northeast Nigeria, witnesses said, another sign of the Nigerian military's failure to curb an Islamic uprising.
"Over 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists. The village was also destroyed," a Damboa district government official said, adding that villagers had fled to other parts of Borno and across the border into Adamawa state.
"Among those abducted are children between the ages of three and 12," he said.
The military in Abuja said late on Monday that it could not confirm the latest abductions.
Confirming the incident, a village vigilante, Aji Khalil, said: "Over 60 women were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot."
Damboa officials said they were afraid to speak out because of the controversy surrounding the recent abduction of more than 200 girls from Chibok village of the same state, with Nigeria's government coming under heavy criticism for its slow response.
Another resident, who fled to the Borno state capital Maiduguri, said more than 30 men were killed during the raid, which began on Thursday.
"The attackers held the whole village hostage for the next three days," he added.
Boko Haram, which has been waging a deadly insurgency since 2009, used the kidnapping of women and young girls as a tactic even before the mass abduction of the girls from Chibok.
Analysts said the latest kidnapping could be an attempt by the Islamist group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters.
Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls that it has held hostage since April 14 in exchange for the freedom of its fighters held in Nigerian jails.
Nigeria initially refused to sanction any deal but efforts have since been made to open talks with the group, with a possible prisoner swap part of discussions.
The Chibok abduction triggered outrage within Nigeria that spread overseas, leading to international pressure on the government to act.
Numerous countries, including the United States, are now involved in the search effort led by the Nigerian military.