Nigerian police have arrested eight members of the armed group Boko Haram who were involved in the 2014 abduction of more than 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, an official said.
The men “confessed to having participated actively in the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls,” police commissioner Damian Chukwu told journalists on Wednesday in the northern town of Maiduguri, once a Boko Haram stronghold.
The eight men were among a group of 22 fighters arrested within the past two weeks, according to Chukwu. One of the men, aged 23, “confessed to being one of the Boko Haram commanders who coordinated and led the kidnapping” of the Chibok girls, Chukwu added.
Police said those arrested also admitted to organising more than 50 suicide bombings.
The kidnapping of the Chibok girls captured the world’s attention, with celebrities and prominent personalities such as former US first lady Michelle Obama joining a “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign to free them.
Some 2 000 girls and boys have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014, with many used as sex slaves, fighters and even suicide bombers, according to Amnesty International.
The armed group, which has been active since 2009, wants to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law in Nigeria, as well as in bordering regions of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Some 20 000 people have been killed and about 2.3 million displaced since Boko Haram started its armed campaign in 2009.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram fighters killed six traders when they ambushed a convoy of lorries under military escort in northeast Nigeria, a civilian militia member and a local resident said yesterday.
“Six traders were killed in an ambush by Boko Haram gunmen on Tuesday,” said Umar Kachalla, from the volunteer security force in Gamboru, a trading hub on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
Kachalla said the gunmen opened fire on the 23-strong convoy, forcing it to stop, then looted supplies and torched the vehicles.
“The poor state of the road makes it difficult for motorists to escape any ambush because they need to manoeuvre through deep and gaping potholes,” he added.
Abubakar Yusuf, from Gamboru, passed the scene on Thursday morning. “I can see the trucks lined up. They are all burnt. Nothing remains but heaps of ash from the goods,” he said.
“It is true. Six people were killed in the ambush, including five men and one woman. Attacks against traders have become frequent despite the military escorts.”
AFP asked for confirmation and comment from Nigerian Army spokesman Brigadier General Texas Chukwu. In a text message, he said only: “Is not true.”
Further questions about whether he meant the attack itself or the numbers involved went unanswered. — AFP