New Kidnappings in Northeastern NigeriaOctober 27, 2014 in Nigeria
In a new report published Monday, a rights group has indicated that Boko Haram has used kidnapped women and girls on the front lines of its insurgency. The new report comes as news emerged that the militant group is suspected of kidnapping dozens of girls and boys.
Despite Nigerian government claims of a truce with the militant group, on Monday reports emerged that suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped about thirty adolescents in the northeastern region of the country. Local sources have reported that the suspected militants kidnapped boys aged 13 and over and several girls aged 11 and over. According to a local official, at least seventeen people were killed when the village of Mafa, in Borno State, came under attack on Thursday. Nigerian authorities however are blaming the attack on local bandits. The attack on Mafa, which is located 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of the state capital Maiduguri, is the latest in a series of assaults carried out by suspected Boko Haram militants. Last week, at least 40 women and girls were seized in neighbouring Adamawa state.
Both kidnappings, along with continued violence in northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, have caused doubts over government claims of a ceasefire agreement and deal for the release of 219 schoolgirls held captive since May. Boko Haram has yet to confirm that a ceasefire agreement has been reached.
According to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Monday, the militant group has kidnapped more than 500 women and girls since its insurgency began in 2009, adding that they use the girls and women on the front lines of combat.
The report came to the conclusion after officials outlined testimony from dozens of former hostages who documented the physical and psychological abuses they went through while being held captive. In total, 30 women and girls were interviewed between April 2013 and April 2014, including 12 of the 57 girls who fled shortly after militants raided a school in Chibok, Borno state. The women and girls, who were held from between two days and three months, were either kidnapped from their homes and villages or while working on the land, fetching water or at school. They all described being held in eight different camps believed to be located in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno state and in the Gwoza hills, which separate Nigeria from Cameroon. They described seeing other women and children in the camps, some of them infants while others as old as 65, however they were unable to indicate whether they had also been kidnapped.
While most of the women were made to cook, clean and perform household chores, with some forced to carry stolen goods seized by the insurgents after attacks, others were forced to fight alongside the militants. In one particular testimony, a 19-year-old woman indicated that she was forced to participate in Boko Haram attacks while being held hostage in militant camps for three months in 2013. According to the woman, she “…was told to hold the bullets and lie in the grass while they fought. They came to me for extra bullets as the fight continued during the day.” While a wave of attacks carried out by female suicide bombers across northeastern Nigeria earlier this year prompted speculation that Boko Haram may be changing tactics and using abducted women to carry out deadly attacks, there has been no evidence to prove whether the attackers were kidnap victims who were coerced or volunteers. The report further disclosed that while Boko Haram appears to pick victims arbitrarily, Christians and students were particularly targeted.
Additionally the newly released report discloses that there have been serious failings in the manner in which Nigerian authorities conducted their investigations in the wake of the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok six months ago. The report includes detailed testimonies of several girls who managed to escape captivity, with HRW adding that the police have shown minimal interest in documenting their evidence, and have treated the case as a “low level crime.” According to the HRW’s Africa Director, Daniel Bekele, little is available to help those girls and women who have survived long periods of captivity, adding that survivors have not received adequate support, including mental health and medical after-care upon their release. He further disclosed that while funds have been set up for the Chibok escapees, little support has been provided to other victims.