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Nigerian gunmen kidnap 20 women in northeast

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria - Suspected Boko Haram gunmen have reportedly kidnapped 20 women from a nomadic settlement in northeast Nigeria near the town of Chibok, where the Islamic militants abducted more than 300 schoolgirls and young women on April 15.

Alhaji Tar, a member of the vigilante groups set up to resist Boko Haram's attacks, said the men arrived at noon Thursday in the Garkin Fulani settlement and forced the women to enter their vehicles at gunpoint. He says they drove away to an unknown location in the remote stretch of Borno state.

Tar said the group also took three young men who tried to stop the kidnapping.

"We tried to go after them when the news got to us about three hours later, but the vehicles we have could not go far, and the report came to us a little bit late," he said.

In another incident, the Defense Headquarters said Monday that troops prevented raids by Boko Haram this weekend on villages in Borno and neighboring Adamawa state. Soldiers killed more than 50 militants on Saturday night as they were on their way to attack communities, defense spokesman Chris Oluklade said in an emailed statement.

The Nigerian military has come under rising criticism from Nigerians who say they're not protected by the security forces, left to fend off attacks by Boko Haram on their own.

Boko Haram, which wants to establish Islamic state in Nigeria, has been taking over villages in the northeast, killing and terrorizing civilians and political leaders. Thousands of people have been killed in the five-year-old insurgency, more than 2,000 people have been killed so far this year, and an estimated 750,000 Nigerians have been driven from their homes.

In recent weeks, the extremists have used a two-pronged strategy and widened their theater of operation beyond the remote northeast of the country. The group has bombed bus stations and marketplaces in three cities, killing about 250 people, and they are staging daily attacks on northeast villages, killing 20 people one day, and 50 another.

In one incident last week, the militants reportedly killed hundreds of civilians in three villages in the Gwoza local government. Residents said they had requested the military sends troops to protect the area after hearing Boko Haram militants were about to attack, but they said help never came.

The extremists abducted more than 300 girls from the Chibok Government Girls School on April 15, according to the police. Chibok community leader Pogu Bitrus says 57 girls escaped, leaving an estimated 272 still held captive.

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This file photo taken from video by Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist network, Monday, May 12, shows the missing girls alleged to be abducted April 14, from the northeastern town of Chibok.

(AP)

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