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Nigeria girls 'forced to marry'


A mother during a demonstration with others who have daughters among the kidnapped school girls of Chibok school (AP)

A mother during a demonstration with others who have daughters among the kidnapped school girls of Chibok school (AP)

A mother during a demonstration with others who have daughters among the kidnapped school girls of Chibok school (AP)

Scores of girls and young women kidnapped from a school in Nigeria are being forced to marry their Islamic extremist abductors, a civil society group claims.

Parents say the girls are being sold into marriage to Boko Haram militants for 2,000 naira (£7), Halite Aliyu of the Borno-Yobe People's Forum said.

She said the parents' information is coming from villagers in the Sambisa Forest, on Nigeria's border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is known to have hideouts.

"The latest reports are that they have been taken across the borders, some to Cameroon and Chad," Ms Aliyu said.

A federal senator for the area in north-east Nigeria said the government should get international help to rescue the more than 200 missing girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist network two weeks ago.

The government must do "whatever it takes, even seeking external support to make sure these girls are released", Ali Ndume said. "The longer it takes the dimmer the chances of finding them, the longer it takes the more traumatised the family and the abducted girls are."

About 50 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape from the captors in the first days after their abduction, but some 220 remain missing, according to the principal of the Chibok Girls Secondary School, Asabe Kwambura.

They are between 16 and 18 years old and had been recalled to the school to do a physics exam.

The mass kidnapping came hours after a massive explosion in Abuja, the capital, killed at least 75 people and wounded 141.

The failure to rescue the girls is a massive embarrassment to Nigeria's government and the military.

They are already subject to mounting criticism over an apparent inability to curb the five-year-old Islamic uprising despite having draconian powers through an 11-month state of emergency in three states covering one-sixth of the country.

The military trumpets a success in its "onslaught on terrorists" but then the extremists step up the tempo and deadliness of their attacks. More than 1,500 people have been killed in the insurgency so far this year, compared to an estimated 3,600 between 2010 and 2013.

The failure to rescue the girls also highlights how large parts of north-east Nigeria remain beyond the control of the government. Until the kidnappings, the air force had been mounting near-daily bombing raids on the Sambisa Forest and mountain caves bordering Chad.

Ms Aliyu said that in north-east Nigeria "life has become nasty, short and brutish. We are living in a state of anarchy".

She said she will be among the women marching in Abuja today to protest about the failure to rescue the kidnapped girls.

Community elder Pogu Bitrus of Chibok town - from where the girls were taken - reportedly said: "Some of them (the kidnapped girls) have been married off to insurgents. A medieval kind of slavery. You go and capture women and the sell them off."

A federal senator from the region said the military are aware of the movements of the kidnappers and girls because he had been feeding them details that he had gathered on a near-daily basis.

"What bothered me the most is that whenever I informed the military where these girls were, after two to three days they were moved from that place to another. Still, I would go back and inform them on new developments," senator Ahmad Zanna is quoted as saying at the Nigerian online news site Persecond News.

Mr Zanna said some of the girls are in Kolofata in Cameroon, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the border with Nigeria.

He said one of the insurgents had called a friend in Borno state to say that he had just got married and was settling in Kolofata. Mr Zanna also said three or four days ago Nigerian herdsmen reported seeing the girls taken in boats onto an island in Lake Chad.