JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Dozens of Nigerian schoolgirls were loaded into vehicles by armed militants and driven off in the middle of the night, according to Nigerian officials.
The gunmen assaulted a boarding school in the town of Chibok, in the country's northeastern Borno state, on Monday night and ordered the students into three trucks and a bus, according to officials who spoke to Nigerian media. They also looted the school's food store and the town, killed some residents and burned dozens of houses, according to the reports.
Some media accounts suggested the attack lasted six hours, as the militants carefully selected which girls to abduct.
Local residents blamed Boko Haram, an Al Qaeda-linked militia fighting to impose Islamic law across Nigeria. The group opposes secular education and has often attacked schools and dormitories, at times cutting the throats of students, shooting them or locking them into dormitories and burning them alive.
Boko Haram means “western education is sinful.”
There were conflicting reports on the numbers of girls abducted Monday, with estimates ranging between 100 and 200. Some of the girls jumped from the trucks and escaped.
A teacher, Audu Musa, told the Reuters news agency that about 100 girls were taken.
Last month, education authorities closed down the state’s schools in Borno state because of the high number of attacks. But the girls had returned to the school to take exams. The gunmen easily overpowered the few soldiers posted at the school.
The attack followed an early-morning bombing at a bus station on the outskirts of the Nigerian capital, Abuja, which killed 72 people, according to official reports. Nigerian police said the dead included a bomber, whose bloodied corpse was wrapped with protective amulets.
A photograph of the alleged bomber was published in Nigerian newspapers Tuesday. Police said the suspect planted the bomb and waited to see it go off, but didn’t retreat to a safe distance and was killed by the blast.