It’s been one year today since Boko Haram attacked the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria, and abducted 276 schoolgirls, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign. More than 200 of those girls are still missing after dozens managed to escape over the year, but a new report from Amnesty International puts the number of women and girls kidnapped by the terrorists since the start of 2014 ten times higher.
“At least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since the start of 2014 and many have been forced into sexual slavery and trained to fight,” Amnesty states in a 90-page report based on nearly 200 witness accounts, including 28 women and girls who escaped captivity.
In that timeframe, more than 5,500 civilians have been killed as Boko Haram rampaged across northeastern Nigeria to declare their caliphate. The terror organization formally pledged allegiance to ISIS at the beginning of March.
The report details how “men and boys are regularly conscripted or systematically executed and young women and girls are abducted, imprisoned and in some cases raped, forcibly married and made to participate in armed attacks, sometimes on their own towns and villages.”
Of those kidnapped girls:
Boko Haram would take the women and girls they abducted directly to camps in remote communities or to makeshift transits camps such as one established in Ngoshe prison. From transit camps Boko Haram would move them to houses in towns and villages and indoctrinate them with their version of Islam in preparation for marriage.
Aisha, aged 19, spoke to Amnesty International about how she was abducted from a friend’s wedding in September 2014 along with her sister, the bride and the bride’s sister. Boko Haram took them to a camp in Gullak, Adamawa state, home to approximately 100 abducted girls. One week later, Boko Haram forced the bride and the bride’s sister to marry their fighters. They also taught Aisha and the other women and girls how to fight.
“They used to train girls how to shoot guns. I was among the girls trained to shoot. I was also trained how to use bombs and how to attack a village,” Aisha told Amnesty International. “This training went on for three weeks after we arrived. Then they started sending some of us to operations. I went on one operation to my own village.”
Aisha said that during the three months that she was held captive, she was raped repeatedly, sometimes by groups of up to six fighters. She also saw more than 50 people killed by Boko Haram, including her sister. “Some of them refused to convert. Some refused to learn how to kill others. They were buried in a mass grave in the bush. They’ll just pack the dead bodies and dump them in a big hole, but not deep enough. I didn’t see the hole, but we used to get the smell from the dead bodies when they start getting rotten.”
Amnesty estimates the Boko Haram army at about 15,000, and the number of attacks and raids on towns since the beginning of 2014 at 300. “During their attacks on towns, they would systematically target the military or police first, capturing arms and ammunition, before turning on the civilian population. They would shoot anyone trying to escape, rounding up and executing men of fighting age,” the report states, adding this witness account:
Ahmed and Alhaji, aged 20 and 18, were seated with other men, waiting for their throats to be cut after Boko Haram took over Madagali on 14 December 2014. Ahmed told Amnesty International that even though his instinct told him to run, he could not. “They were slaughtering them with knives. Two men were doing the killing…We all sat on the ground and waited our turn.” Alhaji only managed to escape when a Boko Haram executioner’s blade became too dull to slit more throats. “Before they got to my group, they killed 27 people in front of me. I was counting every one of them because I wanted to know when my turn would come.” He said that at least 100 men who refused to join Boko Haram were executed in Madagali on that day.
… A 15-year-old boy from Bama, spared by Boko Haram due to his disability, told Amnesty International that he had witnessed 10 stonings. “They stone them to death on Fridays. They will gather all the children and ask them to stone. I participated in the stoning… They will dig a hole, bury all the body and stone the head. When the person dies, they will leave the stones until the body decays.”
Many Christians told Amnesty investigators “they suspect members of the Muslim community of informing Boko Haram where Christians live, or of not sharing information about prospective Boko Haram attacks.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said today that the administration is “very concerned” about the report, “and we continue to be supportive of the efforts of Nigerians to counter the depraved tactics that are employed by Boko Haram.”
“For a year now, people around the world have been concerned about the safety and well being of those girls that were kidnapped,” Earnest said. “The United States has taken steps to try to augment the capabilities of the Nigerian security forces to counter the threat that’s posed by Boko Haram, but also to try to find the girls who were kidnapped.”