(CNN) — The Islamist militant group Boko Haram kidnapped 40 boys and young men — ages 10 to 23 — from a village in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, some of those fleeing said Saturday.
The terrorists arrived in the village of Malari carrying assault rifles, then preached to them about group’s extremist ideology before forcibly taking 40 hostages and driving towards the Sambisa forest on New Year’s Eve, villagers who’d fled to Maiduguri said.
It took days for information on this mass abduction to emerge due to poor communications stemming from the destruction of cell phone towers in previous Boko Haram attacks.
This act, while horrific, is hardly unprecedented. Boko Haram has been blamed for numerous attacks — from assassinations of officials to bombings of crowded markets — in recent years, as part of its quest to impose a strict version of Sharia law around Nigeria.
Mass kidnappings have been part of that campaign, most notably the taking of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in April. There was talk of a ceasefire deal that would pave the way for the girls’ release, but Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau laughed it off — claiming that those abducted had converted to Islam and been married off.
As this week’s incident proves, it’s not only young women who have been targeted.
Boko Haram kidnapped at least 97 young men and boys in a deadly raid last August in and around the village of Doron Baga, a local leader and residents said. Some 28 residents died and 25 more were injured in that raid, according to residents.
Journalist Aminu Abubakar reported from Kano, Nigeria. CNN’s Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta.