Islamist rebels tricked dozens of Nigerian schoolgirls into thinking they were soldiers who had come to evacuate them before abducting more than 100 in their latest anti-government raid, one of the survivors said on Wednesday.
“When we saw these gunmen, we thought they were soldiers, they told all of us to come and walk to the gates, we followed their instructions,” 18-year-old Godiya Isaiah, who later managed to escape the abductors, told Reuters.
When the armed men started ransacking the school stores and set fire to the building, however, the terrified girls being ushered at gunpoint into vehicles realised they were being kidnapped.
“We were crying,” Isaiah said, recounting how she later jumped from a truck and ran away to hide in the bush. Other girls were packed into a bus and some pick-ups.
Borno state education commissioner, Inuwa Kubo, said five other girls who also managed to escape told the same story.
“They went into the bus unsuspecting,” he told Reuters.
“They were lured into the vehicle because they were told that the school was going to be attacked,” he added.
It was not only the school that bore the brunt of the attack as the insurgents also raided nearby Chibok town, ransacking stores and offices there and killing several people, according to witnesses.
Nigerian police and army patrols were on Wednesday still scouring the bush and hills around Chibok for the missing girls, believed to number at least 100. Kubo said 129 girls had been at the school taking their exams when the abduction took place.
A military spokesman called the abductors “terrorists.”
Chibok is not far from a rugged area of forest, hills and caves where military officials say Boko Haram has camps near the border with neighbouring Cameroon. They have abducted girls in the past to be sex slaves for the fighters and to do camp work.
No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction or for the rush hour bomb blast on Abuja’s outskirts, which put the capital on alert around three weeks before the central city was due to host a high-profile World Economic Forum on Africa.