NEW: Government says Boko Haram denies involvement, but group hasn't commented
Local chief said Boko Haram also stole 300 cows during raids
Hope dims for anticipated release of 219 schoolgirls kidnapped in April
At least 30 boys, girls kidnapped from village in Borno state, local leaders say
Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped at least 30 boys and girls from a village in northeast Nigeria during the weekend.
The abductions appear to be the latest in a string of recent kidnappings by Boko Haram that dims hope for the anticipated release of 219 schoolgirls held by the group since April following a controversial ceasefire declared by Nigerian authorities.
Heavily armed Boko Haram gunmen invaded the town of Mafa in Borno state Friday and Saturday and seized 30 boys and girls, local leaders said.
The news of the kidnappings was slow to emerge due to lack of telecom service in the region, where most telecom towers have been destroyed in Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency against Nigeria’s government.
“In the past two days Boko Haram insurgents stormed Mafa and abducted 30 boys aged 13 and above and girls aged 11 and above,” Mafa local government chairman Shettima Maina said.
“They took them away to their base in the bush, and we believe they are going to use them as foot soldiers,” Maina said.
Mallam Ashiekh Mustapha, the local chief of Mafa who confirmed the abductions, said the kidnappers also stole 300 cows from the farming community in the raid.
The Nigerian government has said Boko Haram has denied involvement in the kidnappings, but the group has issued no public statement on the issue.
Regardless, Boko Haram’s near-daily raids have prompted an exodus of residents from Mafa and nearby villages to the Borno state capital of Maiduguri to escape the marauding insurgents, Mustapha said.
On Thursday Boko Haram killed 17 people in the nearby village of Ndongo, which they looted and set ablaze, Maina said.
“Many people have fled with their families to Maiduguri for fear of being killed or losing their children to the insurgents,” Mustapha said.
Maina lamented that the military had done nothing to stop the raids despite repeated complaints by local leaders.
Last week Boko Haram militia kidnapped 60 women and girls in two Christian villages in neighboring Adamawa state, according to residents and community leaders.