In another show of force, Islamist terrorists who have claimed responsibility for the mass abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls are now believed to have opened fire on a busy marketplace, killing hundreds of shoppers taking advantage of a cool night in Nigeria’s semidesert Northeast region.
According to the Associated Press, some 300 people were killed in the assault on the town of Gamboru Ngala on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon late Monday. The militants began shooting into the busy marketplace and then ravaged the town for some 12 hours, burning houses and gunning down anyone who tried to escape.
Borno state’s information commissioner, Mohammed Bulama, who spoke to the Associated Press by telephone Wednesday, confirmed the attack and scores of casualties.
Nigeria has been facing a growing crisis on the global stage since the terrorist group Boko Haram began a campaign of bombings, massacres and abductions in an attempt to impose an Islamic state on Africa’s most populous nation.
According to AP, Nigerian federal Sen. Ahmed Zannah blamed Boko Haram fighters for the mass shooting. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the April 15 kidnapping of more than 200 teenage girls from their boarding school in Chibok, in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state. In a video seen by AP, the group has threatened to convert the girls to Islam and then sell them into slavery.
As news of the mass abduction and the government’s failure to rescue them has spread across the globe, protesters have launched a viral campaign on social media using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The campaign has brought a renewed interest to the kidnapping and the violence Boko Haram’s campaign has inflicted. On Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama joined the cause, tweeting, “Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls.”
The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was sending a special team of personnel and equipment to help Nigerian security forces with their search for the girls in the dense Sambisa Forest.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed that he has accepted the U.S. assistance. On Wednesday the Pentagon reported that it will help with communications, logistics and intelligence planning but that its assistance will not include military personnel, AP reports.
The United Kingdom and China announced on Wednesday that Nigeria has also accepted their offers of help, and France confirmed that it would be sending in a “specialized team” to help with the search and rescue of the girls, AP reports.