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Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds, tells stories of Chibok girls

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02/11/2015 11:40 PM
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Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds, tells stories of Chibok girls
When Islamic extremists snatched more than 270 girls from the Chibok boarding school in Nigeria in the dead of night, protests broke out worldwide. The U.S. pledged to help find them, and the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was born.

Some 10 months later, most are still missing. The Boko Haram extremist group sees the mass kidnapping as a shining symbol of success, and has abducted hundreds of other girls, boys and women. The militants brag to their new captives with claims that the Chibok girls surrendered, converted to Islam and married fighters.

"They told me the Chibok girls have a new life where they learn to fight," says Abigail John, 15, who was held by Boko Haram for more than four weeks before escaping. "They said we should be like them and accept Islam."

The kidnappings reflect the growing ambition and brazenness of Boko Haram, which seeks to impose an Islamic state across Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. Some 10,000 people have died in the Islamic uprising over the past year, compared to 2,000 in the previous four years, according to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.

"It's devastating," said Bukky Shonibare, an activist in Abuja, of the kidnappings. "It makes you wonder, what is being done?"

John was among three girls interviewed by The Associated Press who recently escaped from Boko Haram. While their stories could not be independently verified, they were strikingly similar, and all spoke of their captors' obsession with the Chibok girls.

The girls had no idea whether the militants were telling the truth or making up stories to taunt their victims. John says the fighters enjoyed relating how they had whipped and slapped the Chibok girls until they submitted.

When the Nigerian air force dropped a bomb on the house where John was confined, she tried to escape, she says. She wrestled with the fighters, but they broke her am and hauled her off to another house.

At the end of last year, the Nigerian army liberated the town where she was held. She is now in Yola with her father, sister and six brothers, in a house overcrowded with refugees. She finally was able to get medical attention for her fractured right arm, which remains in a cast.

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Source: [link to www.chicagotribune.com]

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