A truce announced earlier this month by Boko Haram’s supposed leaders and the beleaguered Nigerian government appears to be over. The militant group is sending kidnapped girls to the front line in an attempt to “lure” Christians to fight for its self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate, it is claimed.
Since it began its insurgency in 2009, it is estimated that Boko Haram has taken more than 500 women and girls hostage, including more than 200 schoolgirls seized in April at Chibok, a town in the north-eastern state of Borno. It emerged yesterday that another 30 teenagers, – both boys and girls – were kidnapped on Thursday, 25 miles from Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno. Another 40 girls and young women were captured in neighbouring Adamawa state on 18 October, the day after the “truce” was announced.
The advocacy group Human Rights Watch has interviewed some girls held by the militants. Their trauma was evident. “One stopped mid-sentence and stared into space, another hit herself repeatedly – we had to stop the interview until she calmed down,” wrote HRW’s Nigeria researcher, Mausi Segun.
Her report was based on interviews with 30 women who either fled captivity or were freed by Boko Haram. They included 12 of the 57 who escaped the Chibok raid. Many women were given domestic chores but some were forced to marry and have sex with Boko Haram fighters.
Gloria was 19 when she was kidnapped with her baby. During a four-day ordeal, she was raped before pretending to convert from Christianity to Islam to escape.
Hauwa was 18 when she was kidnapped and held for three months. According to HRW, she “interacted directly” with the leader of a Boko Haram cell in Gwoza, away from the group’s stronghold in the Sambisa Forest game reserve. Hauwa was said to have been used as “bait to lure in new fighters”. The HRW report said: “They asked her to find Christian men. She asked five young men to help her. When they followed her into the forest, Boko Haram members grabbed them and forced them back to their camp.”
The men were bound and asked to renounce their Christianity, accept Islam and become Boko Haram members. “When they refused, the insurgents began to cut their throats, one by one,” the report said. “Hauwa was ordered to cut the throat of one of the men, but she wouldn’t. The cell leader’s wife grabbed the knife and killed him instead.”
The report said the Nigerian government’s response to Boko Haram was blinkered, at best. Officials were said to have denied the insurgency was happening and later “downplayed its scale”.
David Mepham, the UK director of HRW, told The Independent: “The latest kidnappings are further proof of the weakness of the Nigerian government’s response to this crisis. The authorities are still failing to take appropriate action to secure their release, bring those responsible to justice, meet the needs of those who escape and to make schools safe for girls.”
The government has yet to respond to the HRW report.Reuse content