Nigeria Horrified by Kidnapped Schoolchildren, As Parents Wait Eagerly

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Nigeria Horrified by Kidnapped Schoolchildren, As Parents Wait Eagerly

The sand-covered courtyard of this boys-only boarding school, once the scene of football matches and awards ceremonies, has in recent days become a gloomy gathering point for the parents of more than 300 kidnapped boys in the biggest mass ever in Nigeria – school kidnapping.

Dozens of grieving families have gathered here, gaunt and roused from lack of sleep, since their sons were kidnapped by gunmen on Friday night and led into the dense forest past the pastel-coloured classrooms of the ‘school.

Families have come to demand answers as to how Boko Haram, the jihadist group that claimed responsibility for the attack, could have ventured so far from its strongholds in this remote corner of northwestern Nigeria and been grabbed hundreds of their children.

“How could this have happened? Said Suwaiba Lawan, whose 15-year-old son is among the missing. “He loved it here and he always helps with the housework.” Another mother, Jamila Salisu, said she had barely slept or ate since her own son, in the same class, disappeared: “The government must negotiate,” she says, crying. “Give the terrorists what they want so that I can see my son again.”
Six years after the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok sparked the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, the cries of parents of schoolchildren are echoing once again in Africa’s most populous country.
Nigerian senators, celebrities and opposition leaders reacted with horror to news from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau – the man responsible for the kidnapping of Chibok – that he also carried out the operation. Thousands of people are spreading the word on social media with a new hashtag: #BringBackOurBoys.
“This is shaping up to be another huge moment in the history of the Nigerian insurgency,” said Jacob Zenn, a Boko Haram specialist at Washington-based think tank Jamestown Foundation. “After Chibok, Shekau not only knows how to conduct mass kidnapping operations, but also how to hide captives, then gain media attention and leverage it to negotiate.”News of another mass school kidnapping comes as the Nigerian government continues to insist that the country’s insurgencies are “technically defeated”.

However, the reality is that Africa’s largest land force (a strong ally in the US counterterrorism) is struggling to contain a 10-year jihadist rebellion that has metastasized into a complex multidimensional conflict of overlapping militant groups.

Boko Haram has extended its influence from the northeast to the northwest, negotiating alliances with heavily armed criminal networks. The Islamic State of West Africa’s separatist province, or ISWAP, has been rejuvenated thanks to help from the Islamic State and the return of seasoned fighters from Libya, Syria and Iraq.