Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped eight girls from a village near one of their strongholds in northeastern Nigeria overnight, police and residents said yesterday.
The abduction of the girls, aged 12 to 15, follows the kidnapping of more than 200 other schoolgirls by the Islamist militant group last month.
Lazarus Musa, a resident of the village of Warabe, said armed men had opened fire during the raid. "They were many, and all of them carried guns. They came in two vehicles painted in army colour. They started shooting in our village," Musa said from the village in the hilly Gwoza area, Boko Haram's main base. A police source said the girls were taken away on trucks, along with looted livestock and food.
Watch: Protest in Abuja calls for return of Nigeria's missing girls
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau threatened in a video released to the media on Monday to sell the girls abducted from a secondary school on April 14 "on the market".
The kidnappings by the Islamists, who say they are fighting for an Islamic state in Nigeria, have shocked a country that has been long inured to the violence in its northeast.
"Many people tried to run behind the mountain, but when they heard gunshots, they came back," Musa said. "The Boko Haram men were entering houses, ordering people out of their houses."
Boko Haram, the main security threat to Africa's leading energy producer, is growing bolder. April's mass kidnapping occurred on the day a bomb blast, also claimed by Boko Haram, killed 75 people on the edge of Abuja, the first attack on the capital in two years.
Another bomb in roughly the same place killed 19 people last week, all events that have embarrassed the government before a World Economic Forum meeting on Africa in Abuja from May 7-9.
The military's inability to find the girls in three weeks has led to protests in the northeast, Abuja and Lagos, the commercial capital. More were expected yesterday in Abuja, just as delegates were to collect their badges to allow them entry to the hotel where the forum will take place.