Locals said the hostages were seized in the bush while fetching firewood and fishing in a nearby river under the escort of two civilian vigilantes. (Representational Image)
Boko Haram gunmen have abducted 16 women in a remote area of northeast Nigeria's Adamawa state, police, a lawmaker and locals told AFP on Thursday.
"We received report of the kidnap of 14 women and two girls by gunmen believed to be Boko Haram insurgents near Sabon Garin Madagali village", said Adamawa state police spokesman Othman Abubakar.
"We have sent search teams to the area and have notified the military who have also deployed personnel for search and rescue operation in the bush to free the hostages."
Adamu Kamale, who represents the area in Nigeria's lower chamber of parliament, the House of Representatives, also confirmed the abduction, which happened on Wednesday.
Locals said the hostages were seized in the bush while fetching firewood and fishing in a nearby river under the escort of two civilian vigilantes assisting the military against the Islamist insurgents.
"When the civilian vigilantes escorting the women saw the heavily armed Boko Haram fighters advancing on them they fled, leaving the women to their fate," said Madagali resident Garba Barnabas.
Two women who escaped by jumping into the river and pretending to have drowned later returned to the village to raise the alarm, he added.
Madagali district, which lies on the border with Borno state, has been repeatedly attacked by Boko Haram during its nearly seven-year insurgency, which has left more than 17,000 people dead.
Human rights groups have said fighters have kidnapped thousands of women and young girls, including more than 200 schoolgirls who were abducted from the Borno town of Chibok nearly two years ago.
The insurgents temporarily seized Madagali district and parts of Adamawa as well as large swathes of territory in Borno and Yobe state in 2014, as they sought to establish a hardline Islamic state.
More than 2.6 million people have fled their homes since the start of the violence but as troops began a fight-back last year and recaptured territory, some of the internally displaced have returned home.
Sporadic hit-and-run attacks have continued however, as well as suicide bombings.
"Since people returned to their homes we have been experiencing attacks by Boko Haram despite claims that security has been restored", said Kamale.
"The abduction shows that more security needs to be deployed to protect the people from attacks and abductions."