It was the kidnapping that the world ignored. Denied by the authorities, overshadowed by other atrocities, hidden by its remote location, the abduction of about 400 women and children in the Nigerian town of Damasak remains unsolved and shrouded in mystery a year later.
It was the biggest-ever kidnapping by the Islamist radicals of the Boko Haram group, yet it was neglected by politicians and activists who focused instead on the heavily publicized abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014.
While it is Chibok that continues to mesmerize the global spotlight, Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 girls and women since the beginning of 2014, turning them into cooks, fighters and sex slaves, according to an Amnesty International report last year. More recently, there have been fears that some of the abducted girls were forced to become suicide bombers.
Now a new report by Human Rights Watch has documented the worst of those kidnappings: The Damasak abduction in March of last year, in which at least 300 elementary school students were among the estimated 400 captives.
When the first shocking reports began to filter out of the remote northeastern town, which the group took control of last year, the Nigerian government denied that anyone had been kidnapped. The denial went unchallenged because the town was too dangerous for journalists to visit, with Boko Haram fighters still roaming in the district. So the details of the abduction were never confirmed.
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