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Dec 18, 12:00 PM EST

Suspected Islamic extremists kidnap 185 in northeast Nigeria


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MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) -- Islamic extremists killed 35 people and kidnapped at least 185, fleeing residents said Thursday of an attack near the town where nearly 300 schoolgirls were taken hostage in April.

Most of those kidnapped Sunday were young women, children and members of a vigilante group that is fighting Boko Haram, residents said.

Teenager Aji Ibrahim said he was lucky to escape into the bushes.

"No doubt they were Boko Haram members because they were chanting `Allahu akbar' (God is great) while shooting at people and torching houses," he told The Associated Press.

The attack on Gumburi happened on Sunday night, said a security official and a local government officer, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. The news took days to emerge because the militants have destroyed communications towers in the area.

Gumburi is 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Chibok, the northeastern town where extremists kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in April. Dozens of the students escaped but 219 remain missing.

The militants have kidnapped hundreds of people but the mass kidnappings of the girls from a boarding school attracted international outrage and condemnation of Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and his military for their failure to rescue the hostages.

The United States, Britain, France and China were among countries that sent security experts and hostage negotiators to help free the girls. Washington also flew drones over the area where they believed the schoolgirls were held.

None of them has yet been found.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau initially demanded the release of his fighters who are being held illegally without charges or trial. But Jonathan said he would not negotiate with terrorists.

There were reports that some of the girls had been married to their captors and some carried across borders.

In a recent video, Shekau said the girls were "an old story," implying their release was no longer up for negotiation.

Boko Haram has seized a score of towns and villages where it has declared an Islamic caliphate along the northeast border with Cameroon. Thousands of people have been killed in the 5-year-old Islamic uprising that has driven some 1.3 million from their homes.

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Faul reported from Cambridge, England.

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