“It’s like hearing of the return of the slave trade,” the father of two girls abducted by Islamist terror group Boko Haram said of the ordeal. As more than two hundred girls remain missing after a kidnapping this month, reports have surfaced of “mass weddings” between the hostages and their abductors.
The Guardian reports that there are no official updates on the Boko Haram tragedy from the Nigerian government; the government claims that they are ill-equipped for guerrilla warfare in the fields, and parents receive only the updates they learn by wading through the fields Boko Haram use to hide away from the law. Parents have collected money and organized search troops that venture deep into Boko Haram territory, though armed with only bows and arrows, allowing them to gather intelligence but leaving them ill-equipped to rescue their daughters.
Villagers who live in the forests but are not affiliated with Boko Haram have told these groups that they have seen “mass marriages,” and that “the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants.” The unofficial intelligence missions have also discovered that the girls were divided into at least three groups, and that lower-level terrorists paid Boko Haram leaders proper dowries for their slave brides.
Time reports that a proper dowry for a kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirl is $12.
Parents and relatives are organizing protests this weekend to demand the Nigerian government take action. As some reports claim groups of girls have been taken outside the borders of Nigeria, officials have called for international help. Niger has begun an investigation into whether any of the kidnapped girls are within their borders. Some reports have placed girls in Cameroon and Chad, as well.
One government negotiator told the UK’s Channel 4 exclusively that “it would not be hard to engineer a deal. It looks like they want to release them.” The negotiator claims to have been working directly with militants, and noted that many of the terrorists’ concerns are whether they can escape the wrath of the law if they hand over the girls.
While the mass abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls has garnered the most news, Boko Haram has not ceased other, more traditional terrorist activity. The group, whose name means “Western education is sin,” recently took responsibility for a bombing in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and has been recruiting mercenaries in Niger to help organize new terror attacks.