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In Nigeria, Islamic Extremists Kidnap Close To 200 People


Earlier today, I was interviewing a Nigerian activist, a leader of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. Oby Ezekwesili and I were talking about the schoolgirls - over 200 - who are still missing from the town of Chibok after being kidnapped in April.

OBY EZEKWESILI: And so they still have them - 219 girls.

CORNISH: And while we were talking, we got word of a new grim story. Islamic extremists reportedly killed dozens of people and kidnapped close to 200, again nearby the village of Chibok. I asked my guest about this latest mass kidnapping.

EZEKWESILI: What do you want me to say? I've tweeted at our government and I've said to them that I hope they learn from the mistakes of the Chibok girls, and that they will do everything to avoid repeating the same pattern.

CORNISH: Joining us on the phone is Tim Cocks. He's the Nigeria Bureau chief for Reuters. And Tim, as we just heard more violence in northern Nigeria. But can you describe what happened in this latest attack?

TIM COCKS: Sure. I mean, the details are still fairly sketchy because it's in a very remote place. It's eerily reminiscent of the abduction of the Chibok girls. Basically, from what we gather, we had gunmen attack this village. This was actually last Sunday, so it's taken awhile for the news to trickle out. They - in the classic kind of Boko Haram style - just sprayed the whole place with bullets. They then took these big, large open-top trucks that they had and they loaded on - they say roughly about 100 women and children, and just drove them off. So it does show that - as Oby was suggesting, that maybe the government still hasn't gotten its head around protecting civilians in this very volatile area.

CORNISH: It's not unheard of for Boko Haram to issue some sort of statement or even videos. Has anything been heard from the group in relation to this attack?

COCKS: There's usually a time delay of several days, if not weeks, between them carrying out an action and then popping up with a video to claim it. Given the size of the attack and the number of people abducted - if it really is more than 100, then this will be the biggest single abduction since the abduction of the Chibok girls. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point the man claiming to be Boko Haram's leader doesn't show up on the video gloating about it and possibly making demands, which, of course, he knows the government probably won't be able to meet.

CORNISH: What has been happening with the Nigerian government's offensive into this area of the country against Boko Haram?

COCKS: It's not looking very good at the moment. They occasionally report that they've killed large numbers of insurgents. But if they have, it doesn't seem to have dented their overall capabilities. This is a group - or possibly several factions - that seems able to pretty much do - it does as it will in that whole northeastern region. So it doesn't look like they've got very good control of the situation at all, despite what is now more than two years of a military offensive that was supposed to crush them.

CORNISH: That's Tim Cocks. He's the Nigeria Bureau chief for Reuters. He's based in Lagos, Nigeria. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

COCKS: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.