May 4 (GIN) – Boko Haram, fleeing to a new hideout, has abandoned hundreds of women and girls in the Sambisa forest where the high school girls from Chibok were initially taken over one year ago. It is not certain, however, that the freed girls and women were part of the 200 plus kidnapped victims of Boko Haram, officials say.
Over the past few weeks, Nigerian troops claim to have rescued about 1,000 women and girls. “Many of them told us that they have been hungry for days,” said Sani Datti, spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.
However, kidnapping is still advancing and at least 2,000 new women and girls have been taken by the militants, according to Amnesty International.
Less mentioned are the boys seized and forced to become child soldiers. As many boys have been kidnapped as girls but the military hasn’t reported freeing boys in any significant number.
Boko Haram may have abandoned the girls but continues to occupy territory beyond Nigeria. A video released last month announced a new name (Iswap) for Islamic State’s West Africa Province and a pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).
“It would be naive on the part of Nigeria’s authorities to think it is on the brink of victory,” wrote Tomi Oladipo for BBC Lagos. Sambisa forest is mine-infested and it is likely the Iswap fighters know this terrain better than the military does, he wrote. “The Nigerian military is likely to face its toughest battle yet,” he affirmed.
The head of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin, discussed the rehabilitation of the rescued women and children. He said his organization had put in place a formidable team to restore the dignity of the girls, who were facing severe psychosocial trauma.
Interviews with some of the rescued girls appeared on the BBC website. According to the former hostages, Boko Haram fighters began pelting the women with stones when they refused to flee with their captors. Some were killed in that incident, the women said. Others were killed inadvertently by the military during the rescue operation.
“Soldiers did not realize that we were not the enemies,” and some women were run over by their trucks,” survivor Asama Umoru told the news station.
“Every day, we witnessed the death of one of us and waited for our turn,” said Asabe Umaru, a 24-year-old mother of two.
An AP reporter who visited the survivor camps described the state of the children as “just little skeletal bodies with flaps of skin that make them look like old people.”