Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Boko Haram forcing kidnapped girls to marry, rights group says

The reports are unconfirmed but add to fears after more than 250 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria

Scores of girls kidnapped from a school in northern Nigeria two weeks ago are being forced to marry their Boko Haram abductors, a local human rights group has reported.

Halite Aliyu, of the Borno-Yobe People’s Forum, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that more than 200 of the girls who were kidnapped had been sold to fighters for $12 each.

Aliyu said the information given about the mass weddings was coming from villagers in the Sambisa Forest, on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon where Boko Haram was known to have a number of hideouts.

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

It was not possible to independently verify the reports.

The news comes weeks after suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed an all-girls secondary school in the village of Chibok, in Borno state, packing the teenagers onto trucks and disappearing into a remote, hilly area along the Cameroon border.

Boko Haram's struggle to revive an Islamic caliphate in the north has become the main security threat to Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy.

Community elder Pogu Bitrus of Chibok town, from where the girls were abducted, told the BBC's Hausa service that some of the kidnapped girls "have been married off to insurgents.”

"A medieval kind of slavery. You go and capture women and then sell them off,'' Bitrus said.

At the same time, the Boko Haram network was reportedly negotiating over the students' fate and demanding an unspecified ransom for their release, a Borno state civic leader told AP. The abductors have also claimed that two of the girls have died from snake bites.

Information regarding the girls’ exact whereabouts remains unclear.

About 50 of the kidnapped girls managed to escape from the captors in the first days after their abduction, but some 220 are still missing, according to the principal of the Chibok Girls Secondary School, Asabe Kwambura. The girls are between 16 and 18 years old.

The government and military's failure to rescue the girls prompted Nigerian protesters to march outside the country's parliament on Wednesday.

The march, dubbed "A Million-Woman March" was promoted on Twitter and attracted several hundred women and men, mostly dressed in red, carrying signs that read "Find Our Daughters."

Parents have voiced fury at the military's rescue operation, accusing the security forces of ignoring their daughters' plight.

Former World Bank vice president and ex-Nigerian cabinet member Obiageli Ezekwesili addressed protesters at Unity Fountain in Abuja as the march kicked off.

She accused the military of having "no coherent search-and-rescue" plan.  

"If this happened anywhere else in the world, more than 200 girls kidnapped and no information for more than two weeks, the country would be brought to a standstill," she told Agence France-Presse.

But even before the abductions, conditions Nigeria’s north were already deteriorating, with bombings, kidnappings and attacks by Boko Haram becoming more frequent.

On the day the schoolgirls were seized, a bomb blast also blamed on Boko Haram killed 75 people on the edge of the capital Abuja.

"The Chibok community has been wiped out by Boko Haram," Tsambido Hosea, whose daughter is among the kidnapped, told Reuters.

"There is no doubt our nation is at war," Senate President David Mark told parliament on Tuesday.

Until the kidnappings, the air force had been mounting near-daily bombing raids since mid-January on the Sambisa Forest and mountain caves bordering Chad.

Aliyu, invoking Thomas Hobbes, said that in northeastern Nigeria, "life has become nasty, short and brutish ... We are living in a state of anarchy.'

Al Jazeera and wire services

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