Reports say that over 60 women were able to flee a Boko Haram encampment during fighting at a nearby military base. Here’s how it happened.
In the small town of Damboa, Nigeria, close to the border with Chad, a firefight between Boko Haram militants and the Nigerian government raged. The attack happened at a particularly vulnerable time. Government troops had been out exploring the local villages when Boko Haram launched their assault on the military base. When the dust cleared, 5 Nigerian soldiers and 53 militants were dead. The military launched a counter-assault and out of the chaos something unexpected emerged: around 63 women, who had been taken captive two weeks prior, had escaped a nearby Boko Haram encampment.
Although the Nigerian government initially denied these women were taken captive during a raid on Kummabza Village, reported figures said 60-90 women and around 30 boys were taken hostage. Local security officials now report that the women were able to plan their escape when militants poured out of the camp and into the battle raging near the military outpost, diverting many of the guards’ attention.
According to relatives of the escaped women, they carefully and quietly began scaling the walls as their remaining guards began to doze off. However, when camp dogs began to bark, the militants woke up and began shooting. Currently 18 of the 63 women who escaped are receiving hospital medical treatment in Lasa Village. Fortunately, there are no confirmed cases of gunshots, but detention and malnourishment have taken their toll. A resident of Lasa explained to journalists, “They’re looking very distressed and very leanů they have gone through a very terrible ordeal.”
Boko Haram burst into the international consciousness when the militants kidnapped 276 girls from Chibok Schools, in Borno State, Nigeria. Although the missing school girls were not among the women who escaped, rumors have been flying that the Nigerian army has pinpointed their location, but fear Boko Haram will kill the girls if they attempt a rescue. The official word, however, is far more conservative. The Coordinator of the National Information Center, Mike Omeri, shared that while they have made significant headway in finding the girls’ location, any information in regards to military involvement remains classified.
Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks in Nigeria following the international fervor surrounding the missing Chibok girls. In the capital, Abuja, and various towns and villages in the Northern Nigeria, attacks and car bombs have become startlingly common.
Although the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has vowed to find the girls and put an end to Boko Haram, many accuse him of both ignoring the war raging in Nigeria’s northern states and even instigating some of the tribal warfare surrounding Boko Haram. It is not an accusation without merit, as before the world began demanding “#BringBackOurGirls,” the President of Nigeria spent almost two weeks in the know about the abducted children, without saying a word.
Furthermore, dissent within the Nigerian military’s ranks has some concerned about the security of their operations. Reports that army personal would slip out from military bases to fight for Boko Haram, before returning back and donning their military uniforms, is a familiar allegation in the Nigerian press.
Recruitment and sympathy for Boko Haram has presented some very real problems for the Nigerian government. Extremists citing corruption, human rights abuses, and marginalization of many of Northern Nigeria’s tribes, have garnered consideration from some local leaders who both shelter and obscure Boko Haram’s whereabouts.
However, with a ramp-up in violence and government incursions, it seems their protective walls are beginning to crumble. Captured militants are now being questioned by the Nigerian military and undoubtedly the information shared by the escaped women will help combat their notoriously hard-to-track movements, leading many to hope that the Chibok girls will soon join the ranks of those who’ve escaped from Boko Haram’s grasp.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.