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article imageNigeria: Boko Haram announces kidnappings in new video

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 14, 2013 in World
Maiduguri - In a video released Monday, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the radical militant Islamic sect Boko Haram, said that his group has kidnapped women and children in retaliation for arrests and detention of its members' families.
Shekau said the group would hold the women and children until the authorities release the families of its members.
The video obtained by both AFP and AP on Monday, reportedly showed the kidnapped women and children about seven minutes into the 12-minute video. It showed Shekau standing next to a group of unidentified women and children.
According to AP, there were 12 children, boys and girls. The Nigerian police have not announced any kidnappings.
AFP notes that prior to the recent kidnapping involving a French family, Boko Haram was never associated with kidnappings for ransom.
Boko Haram kidnapped a French family, the Moulin-Fournier family, in Cameroon, close to the Nigerian border in February. The Nigerian Punch reports that according to Reuters, a confidential Nigerian government report revealed that Boko Haram was paid more than $3 million for the hostages. However, the French and Cameroonian governments have denied paying a ransom.
AFP reports that Shekau, speaking in the Hausa language of the predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, said: "As long as we do not see our women and children we will never release these women and children."
This is the first time the group has come out to claim kidnapping of Nigerian women and children.
According to AP, the man whom the US government has declared a global terrorist, hung a Kalashnikov rifle over his shoulder as he spoke. He quoted from the Quran, saying any person abducted by the group becomes a "servant." He did not explain what he meant.
Local analysts say that by kidnapping and holding women and children hostage, Boko Haram was only following the precedent set by Nigerian authorities who also hold children and wives of criminals and insurgents to force them to give themselves up.
Shekau spoke in the video, referring to the group's recent assault on Bama in which more than 50 people, mostly soldiers and police, were killed: "We are the ones that carried out the Bama attack."
Referring to the April incident in Baga in which about 187 people, mostly civilians, died, he said: "We also carried out the attack in Baga."
He continued: "It was you, the security agents that went into town the following day and burnt homes and killed people at will."
The Punch reports he denied claims that Nigerian forces killed Boko Haram insurgents in the Baga shoutout. He described the claims as lies. According to The Punch, he said: “None of our people was killed in Baga."
Shekau said his fighters only launched in the night what he described as a "small attack." He said: "The next morning security forces, they entered there, they burned down house. They killed that they wanted to kill and in the end, they came and said it was Boko Haram. It's a lie."
Digital Journal reported that the Nigerian military authorities denied media claims that about 187 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Baga, a fishing community in the Lake Chad region of far northeastern Nigeria.. The military claimed only 30 Boko Haram members died while one Nigerian soldier and six civilians died
The local, the international media as well as human rights organizations accused the military of staging a violent attack in retaliation for the killing of a soldier. The soldiers reportedly razed the town of Baga and killed scores of civilians.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released satellite images that revealed extensive destruction of civilian property following the military raid on April 16 and 17. The satellite images appeared to refute the claims by the military authorities that only 30 houses were destroyed in the attack.
Digital Journal described an aspect of the crude tactical methods Nigerian troops employ which is a reflection of poor professional orientation and training:
"An incident in which militants kill an army personnel will often be followed by a vengeful reprisal attack after insurgents might have withdrawn or taken up positions facilitating easy tactical withdrawal, but leaving innocent civilians exposed to soldiers who, under the pretext of fighting insurgents, open fire on anything that moves...."
Critics of the military authorities point out what is obvious: Such crude tactics only antagonize the local civilian populace and play to the advantage of Boko Haram by winning them grassroots support.
The BBC reports that following the Baga conflagration, Boko Haram launched an attack on Bama. According to AFP, members of the group launched a predawn assault. They arrived in a convoy of vehicles and attacked military, police and government buildings. They were reportedly armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Col. Musa Sagir of the Joint Task Force in Maiduguri, said; "Some of the gunmen attacked the military barracks but they were repelled. Ten of them were killed and two were arrested. But the gunmen broke into the prison, freeing 105 inmates, and killed all prison warders they could see except those who hid in a store where cooking utensils were kept."
There are growing concerns in officials circles about the increasing sophistication of the Boko Haram attacks in recent times.
The group has shown little interest in tentative offers of amnesty by the Nigerian government. Shekau said in the video: "You talk of dialogue... You are free to say whatever you want to say but we will never stop our struggle."
The Punch reports that meanwhile, the Director of Defense Information, Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, advised Boko Haram to leave civilians alone. He said: "We will continue to do our jobs as enshrined in the constitution of this country. Nobody can blackmail us; they (Boko Haram) should stop this criminal conduct. They should stop terrorizing innocent people; we will not be blackmailed from doing our work. They should leave the innocent civilians out of this. The military will continue to do its work to provide security for Nigeria."
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