Colin Freeman, Telegraph, May 3, 2015
Women taken hostage by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria opened fire on soldiers who tried to rescue them from a remote mountain hideout, it was disclosed on Sunday.
The women–apparently forced by the terror sect into acting as conscripts–shot at the unsuspecting troops when they staged an operation to free them from the remote village of Nbita in north-east Nigeria last week. Seven soldiers were killed in the ensuing gunfight, in which a dozen of the women also died, according to officials who spoke to the Associated Press.
The captive females were among nearly 700 women and girls who have been rescued from Boko Haram hideouts in the vast Sambisa forest area in recent days.
They are now being looked after at a refugee camp in the eastern city of Yola, where many are showing signs of severe trauma and exhaustion. A number of the children also have distended stomachs and tinted orange hair–two signs of malnutrition.
Nigerian officials said that Boko Haram has captured thousands of women and girls in recent years, using them as cooks, sex slaves and human shields at their camps the remote bush areas.
Many are believed to have been abducted during raids on villages in which hundreds of menfolk were killed.
“Boko Haram killed the father of this child,” sobbed Lami Musa, a mother of four who was cradling a four-day-old girl at one refugee camp. “I have no idea where my other children are.”
Many of the hostages were in such a distressed state when they were found that they had no idea whether their rescuers meant them good or harm. Nigerian officials are trying to determine where the women and children are from.
So far, it does not appear that any of those released are from the group of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped from the town of Chibok a year ago, whose abduction first put Boko Haram in the international spotlight.
“Based on registration we have carried out so far, none of them is from Chibok,” said Zakari Abubakar, an official with the National Emergency Management Agency, which is looking after the hostages.
Ms Musa’s four-day-old baby was born the day before her group set off from the Sambisa forest area for a refugee camp in Yola, crammed into the backs of rickety, open pick-up trucks.
On the trip’s first day, one military vehicle escorting the group exploded a landmine, wounding two soldiers, according to a soldier traveling with them.
Boko Haram has been on the back foot militarily in recent months, having previously controlled an area of north-east Nigeria almost the size of Belgium.
The tide turned in the past nine weeks with a new infusion of armory including helicopter gunships, and a coalition with troops from neighboring countries.
Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s outgoing president, vowed last week that he would “hand over a Nigeria completely free of terrorist strongholds” when he cedes power on May 29.