Over 60 flee kidnappers in Nigeria
More than 60 Nigerian girls and women abducted by Islamic extremists two weeks ago have managed to escape, officials have said.
Nigerian security forces and federal government officials had denied reports of the mass abduction from three villages in the north east state of Borno on June 22.
Chibok local government chairman Pogu Bitrus said he had verified that about 63 women and girls escaped on Thursday and Friday.
He sent a representative to meet some of the escapees and their families at a hospital in Lassa, a town in the neighbouring Damboa local government area.
Vigilante leader Abbas Gava in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, said yesterday that vigilantes in the area told him 63 women and girls managed to get away on Friday while their captors were engaged in a major attack on a military barracks and police headquarters in Damboa town.
Small-scale kidnappings by Boko Haram extremists had been going on for months before they drew international condemnation for the abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok town of Borno state on April 15.
Some 219 of those girls still are missing. The government and military failure to rescue them has attracted criticism at home and abroad.
Boko Haram is demanding the release of detained fighters in exchange for the girls. Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan has reportedly refused to consider a prisoner swap.
Amid the stalemate, Mr Bitrus said that attacks have increased around Chibok and that Boko Haram has taken over some villages in the area and is threatening to take over others.
The Kibaku Area Development Association, a local residents' association of which he is also chairman, reported that 19 villages have been attacked since the April 15 abductions, with more than 229 people killed and about 100 seriously wounded.
In 90% of cases there had been advance warning of the attacks - as happened in the Chibok kidnappings - yet the military had taken no action, the association said.
"Security and defence is mainly provided by the local vigilante (who are ill-equipped) and the police while the soldiers in Chibok sit by and watch villagers being helplessly massacred in their homes, farms and in places of worship," it said in a statement.
The association called for help from the United Nations.
"The inability or unwillingness of the federal government to provide adequate security to Chibok (Kibaku) nation following the abduction of the girls leaves us with no option than to call on the United Nations to use its apparatus to come to our aid and protect us from the imminent annihilation as a people," the statement said.
Original reports quoted witnesses and a local officials saying about 90 people including about 30 boys had been kidnapped from three villages on June 22.
A police officer later said they had conducted an investigation at the insistence of the Borno state governor and reported 71 women and girls were abducted, but no males.
The officer said that report was never published because of the official denial that any kidnapping had taken place.
Some officials also questioned the mass abduction of the Chibok girls, which was confirmed last month by a presidential investigating committee.
More than 2,000 people have died so far this year in the five-year-old Islamic uprising, compared to an estimated 3,600 in the four previous years.