How Boko Haram seized us as teenagers, turned us to Shekau’s fighters, mechanic for over seven years –Escaped members

How Boko Haram seized us as teenagers, turned us to Shekau’s fighters, mechanic for over seven years –Escaped members

Punch

Shekau’s recent killing aided our escape –ex-insurgents

Some forcefully recruited Boko Haram members who were able to escape from the terrorists’ den in North-East’s Sambisa Forest have revealed how they were abducted, forced to do the bidding of the terrorists and their escape.

The returnees, mostly teenagers when they were abducted, explained that they were abducted alongside other family members, adding that some died along the way while they lost contact with the others when they got to the camp.

Our correspondent who was able to meet some of them discreetly in a military facility where they were being held learnt that there were many captives still in the custody of the terrorists and that anyone caught while attempting to escape was usually killed.

I was forcefully married, had baby for top Shekau’s commander, says 20-year-old member

One of the victims, 20-year-old Hassana Jibrin, who spent seven years in the terrorists’ den, recalled that she and her five siblings were abducted in Gamboru Ngala shortly after they lost their father on Maiduguri-Gamboru Road.

Jibrin, married off to one of the commanders of the late Abubakar Shekau, stated, “We were at home that Monday evening around 4:30 pm and I was preparing food for the family when we heard gunshots. We quickly made attempts to run to safety but we were blocked by the insurgents. We didn’t know they had taken over the town, so they abducted my two sisters, three brothers and me. They killed many people on sight.

“Only my mum and our youngest sibling escaped it; they had gone to the market. I later discovered they crossed to Cameroon when they heard the gunshots. We lived in a border community. My sisters died on our way to Sambisa Forest due to fatigue and I don’t know if my brothers are still alive because I never saw them again.

Asked about her experience in the forest, she said it could aptly be described as “hell” as she and others she met there were married off to the fighters.

She added, “I was married off to one of Shekau’s commanders, Abakar, who had many foot soldiers and he took me to his thatched house where we lived for seven years. He was mean; he serially abused me sexually and did all manner of inhuman things to me.

“They have a high operational command in the forest and death was the penalty for breaking any rule, especially when Shekau was alive. The fighters didn’t trust us women and they didn’t allow us to know their modus operandi because the majority of us were forced into marriage.

“When they come for sex, they wielded their guns and force us to sleep with them. If you refuse, they will kill you. Thousands of women and children are suffering in their camps and they are willing to surrender but afraid for their lives because if they are caught they will be killed.”

She recalled that they were thoroughly beaten on slight provocation. “We used bamboo as beds and there was no bedding, so we used rags. Even the bamboo was only for select top commanders. I never loved him. He was only forcing me to have sex with him,” he added.

She said when she tried to engage him in a discussion on several occasions, she was beaten, adding that they were never allowed access to their phones. “They felt unsafe around us,” she added.

Speaking further, she said Shekau, their leader, gathered the women on several occasions and encouraged them to join the fighters to combat the government whom he tagged as infidels. “He told us anyone fighting against the Boko Haram is an infidel and killing them will earn us a place in paradise,” she added.

She said she never partook in any operation but her arranged husband could be away for seven months and they could return for a few days, adding that feeding was also a problem. She pointed out that they usually got food when they attacked villages and communities or when they invaded villagers’ farmland.

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