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30 Dec 2017

Four years in Boko Haram’s den: Abducted Borno schoolgirls return with babies, gloom

A Punch News reporter meet with meets three teenage girls who lived with the terrorists in forced marriage and incarceration.
A 17-year-old girl sat quietly in one corner of her shed, planning a very difficult task.

She had packed a few clothes inside an old sack and was waiting to see the nightfall.

The village was not noisy except for the occasional movements of motorcycles and donkeys along the only dusty road connecting it to the other villages.

The teenager, Maryam Ali (not real name), an indigene of Bama, Borno State, was not alone in the shed. On her laps was her five-month-old baby, and another two-year-old son slept beside her. The time was about 6 pm on Thursday, November 16.

The two children who were with her made the task difficult, but Ali was fed up; she had to flee from her husband – a Boko Haram terrorist who had captured her from Bama town in the Bama Local Government Area of Borno State in December 2013.

Ali was just a 13-year-old schoolgirl when the terrorists invaded her town, taking her along with a handful of other teenage girls to an unknown location.

“I did not have any rest of mind for a day, being kept with the Boko Haram terrorists in a remote forest,” Ali told our correspondent.

“I was always thinking of my family members. I wanted to escape from my husband, a Boko Haram member, but I could not leave my two children behind. We fled from the camp all night. I did not want any of the terrorists to see us. Two women and I escaped with our children through the bush. By the following morning, we found ourselves in the Gamboru area.”

Gamboru is a border area between Nigeria and Cameroon.

After walking for about six more hours, Ali and her two children got to an Internally Displaced Persons camp in a neighbouring area.

Our correspondent learnt that Ali and the two other women with their little children were received by the government officials at the IDPs camp.

The officials did not want the name of the IDPs camp in print for the sake of the safety of the returnees.

The three young women were bound by a common misfortune. They all are teenagers, abducted from their towns by the Boko Haram insurgents at separate times in 2013 and early 2014; and thereafter married to a Boko Haram member.

The three have a baby each, but Ali has another elder child.

Our correspondent learnt that the women were taken by the Boko Haram insurgents to a village they identified simply as Gom, which is along the Lake Chad in the Monguno Local Government Area of Borno State.

It was from this hideout that they reportedly found their way to Gamboru town in the Ngala Local Government Area.

Women, children in Boko Haram’s den uncountable

While speaking with our correspondent at the IDPs camp where she was receiving psycho-social and medical attention, Ali recalled that there were a large number of abducted women and children in the Boko Haram village she lived and other neighbouring terrorist villages.

Ali, who desired to be reunited with her elder sister in Maiduguri, Borno State, had her photograph taken as the camp officials promised to send the details to Maiduguri as they worked out a possible reunion.

The 17-year-old looked much older than her age, with extremely malnourished children and an old sack of bag which reflected sufferings.

However, Ali noted surprisingly that feeding was not a problem for her and her children in the Boko Haram camp, adding that her husband, as with many other terrorists, was a farmer.

She said, “I was worried about my father and my mother. I was worried that they would be looking for me. This worry is why I am looking unhealthy. I never for a day forgot my parents. I cannot estimate the number of people I met in the Boko Haram camp or left there.

“The Boko Haram terrorists have several villages. The villages are just one or two Kilometres apart. There are a lot of women and children in those villages. Many of the children aged three and below, were given birth to in the camps.

“After being carried away by the terrorists, one of them took me into his shed. He eventually became my husband. I had three children with him. I had a girl and two boys, but the girl died almost as soon as I gave birth to her. I have two boys left.”

The second woman, Halima Jamilu (not real name) gave a similar account of why she fled from the insurgents.

Jamilu, a mother of a four-month-old boy, was abducted in February 2014 in Banki town, also in the Bama LGA. The 18-year-old, who recalled that she was in Junior Secondary School Class Two at that time, said she fled from her terrorist husband because she was desperate to return to her parents.

“I just wanted to return to my parents. Although everything such as feeding was sufficient in my husband’s village, I was fed up with him. I was schooling in Banki in 2014 when the Boko Haram sneaked into our town and I was abducted. I was in JSS 2. It was a government school. I cannot go back to school now. I want to go back to my parents first. Then, the school can come later. At the initial time, I was terrified, staying with my husband, a Boko Haram member and farmer. But somehow, I got used to the terror,” Jamilu said.

She recounted sadly how the terrorists cut short her education and showed her to her parents before taking her away.

She said, “I was in Banki with my father. When the Boko Haram came to our town, they burnt down houses. They took me along with some other girls. One of them came to my father and he was interested in marrying me. My father could not say no. If he resisted, they would kill him. He watched helplessly as I was taken into a truck along with other young women.

“We went with them into the bush. My father was a trader. He used to travel from Borno to Ibadan, Oyo State, before that incident. Ever since I returned last Friday, I have been longing to see him. I don’t know where he is at the moment.”

‘Military aircraft flew over us; we could have been bombed’

Our correspondent learnt that the IDPs camp, where the women were kept, usually received at least 10 fleeing women and children from the Boko Haram terrorists in a week.

One of the camp officials said it might still be hard for the military to get to the location because of the difficult terrain.

Back to Ali, who seemed to have more narrations for our correspondent, she explained that sometimes, they heard the blaring of military fighter jets and there were fears that they would be killed.

She said, “I gave birth to all my children at home in the village. We were not allowed to go anywhere. There was no clinic in the Boko Haram camp. I scarcely followed my husband to the farm. I was mainly indoors. Living with the terrorists is fear. But I had everything at my disposal in terms of feeding. My husband planted maize, sugarcane and watermelons.

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