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'Dozens more kidnapped' in Nigeria


Some of the escaped girls who were kidnapped from the government secondary school Chibok (AP)

Some of the escaped girls who were kidnapped from the government secondary school Chibok (AP)

Some of the escaped girls who were kidnapped from the government secondary school Chibok (AP)

Islamic extremists have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages in north-east Nigeria, according to witnesses.

Security forces denied the kidnappings, and there was no independent confirmation of the report from Kummabza, 95 miles from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and headquarters of a military state of emergency that has failed to curtail near-daily attacks by Boko Haram fighters.

Aji Khalil, of a local anti-Boko Haram group, said the abductions took place on Saturday in an attack in which four villagers were killed.

Nigeria's government and military have been widely criticised for their slow response to the abductions of more than 200 schoolgirls on April 15.

Boko Haram has been demanding the release of detained members in exchange for its hostages.

A senior local councillor from the village's Damboa local government said the abductions had occurred. He said elderly survivors of the attack had walked 15 miles to the relative safety of other villages.

The Damboa council secretary, Modu Mustapha, said he could not confirm or deny the abductions.

President Goodluck Jonathan has said he will not consider a swap deal with the militants.

A strategy to rescue the girls appears to have reached an impasse. Nigeria's military has said it knows where they are but fears their abductors would kill them if any military action is taken.

Politics have dogged the issue, with many distracted by upcoming presidential elections in February 2015. The first lady, Patience Jonathan, and some other supporters have claimed the reports of the April abductions were fabricated to discredit her husband's administration.

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Last week, a presidential committee investigating the kidnappings stressed that they did happen and clarified the number of students kidnapped. It said there were 395 at the school, 119 escaped during the siege of the school, and another 57 escaped in the first couple of days of their abduction, leaving 219 unaccounted for.

This year, the Boko Haram insurgents have embarked on a two-pronged strategy - bombing in cities and a scorched-earth policy in rural areas where they are devastating villages. Nigeria's capital, Abuja, the central city of Jos and the north-eastern state capital of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, have all been bombed.

An explosion at a medical college in the northern city of Kano killed at least eight people and wounded 12 yesterday, police said. It was the third bomb blast in four months in Nigeria's second city.

On Saturday, scores of Boko Haram fighters attacked four other villages, near Chibok town from which the girls were kidnapped. Witnesses said at least 33 villagers were killed as well as six vigilantes and about two dozen Boko Haram fighters.