MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Islamist extremists in Nigeria have seized Chibok, forcing thousands of people to flee the town where insurgents kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in April, a local official said Friday.
The Boko Haram insurgents entered the town Thursday, shooting from pickup trucks and motorcycles, said Bana Lawan, chairman of the Chibok local government.
“Nobody can tell you what is happening there today because everybody is just trying to escape with their lives,” he said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. government is closely monitoring the situation in Chibok.
“We condemn these attacks in Chibok, a community that has already suffered too much. . . . We remain committed to helping the government of Nigeria address the threat posed by extremist organizations,” Psaki told reporters.
Chibok is an enclave of mainly Christian families — some involved in translating the Bible into local languages — in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria.
In a separate development, a bomb exploded Friday night in the northern city of Kano, the second-largest population center in Nigeria, killing a number of people.
Resident Aliyu Yusuf Hotoro said many buildings shook from the force of the explosion opposite a gas station on a main road leading to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state to the northeast. Soldiers, police and emergency rescue workers cordoned off the area.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bomb, but Boko Haram extremists have detonated ones in Kano in the past.
Dozens of the girls taken from Chibok in April escaped in the first couple of days after their kidnapping from a boarding school just outside the town, but 219 are still missing.
Community leader Hussain Monguno said none of the escapees was in Chibok at the time of the attack. They have all been given scholarships to other schools in northern Nigeria.
Nigeria’s military chief announced last month that Boko Haram had agreed to an immediate cease-fire. Government officials said the truce would lead to the girls’ speedy release.
But Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, in a video released last month, said that the girls were “an old story” and that they all had converted to Islam and been married off to his fighters.
Since the cease-fire announcement, the insurgents have taken control of several more towns and villages, where they have declared a caliphate along the lines of that declared by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.