Nearly 150 children and adults enslaved by Boko Haram terrorists for sex and labor have been rescued from a remote camp in Borno state, Nigeria’s defense leaders said June 4.
Nigeria Defense Headquarters photo
Nearly 150 hostages held by Boko Haram were freed in military operations June 3 in northeast Nigeria.
“The rescued hostages, comprising 15 men, 58 women and 75 children revealed … that the Boko Haram terrorists had sexually violated the females and used them as sex slaves,” the military said in a press briefing after the June 3 rescue. “The men were not spared, as they were regularly engaged in forced labor while in the captivity of the terrorists.”
The captives were rescued during counterinsurgency operations in the Bama village of Modu Kimeri and transferred to the Bama Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp for care, the military said. Other details of the freed hostages, such as the length of their captivity and their hometowns, were not disclosed.
The rescue came just days after Amnesty International accused Nigerian military officials themselves of raping and abusing internally displaced persons in their care since 2015, including those held in Bama.
Amnesty’s May 24 report, “They Betrayed Us,” accuses Nigeria’s military officials of using their authority, food and other basic necessities to coerce women into sex, “which amounts to rape under international law.”
“I arrived with 130 other women and children [in early 2016],” Amnesty quoted Bama IDP resident Hauwa as saying. “You’ll see a military man with food in the hand and he’d say, ‘If you like me take this food.’ If you accept the food, later he’d come back to you to have intercourse. If you refuse, he’d rape you [using physical force].” Among Hauwa’s group, 58 died from hunger and thirst in their first four months as IDPs, Amnesty said.
Nigeria has denied Amnesty’s report, citing training and disciplinary actions to counter sexual violence and abuse at its camps.
“Rape is an outright aberration. In the Armed Forces, we maintain that we do not condone rape and do not have rapists among us,” Brig. Gen. John Agim, acting director of defense information, said in a June 1 press statement. “The Military has several measures in place to regulate the conduct of troops and to define their relationships with members of their host communities.”
Nigeria’s two most populous camps in Borno State, namely Bakassi and Dalori, together house more than 45,500 IDPs, Agim said. The military would investigate any reports of rape made in camps, he said.
In the June 3 counterinsurgency operations that freed 148 hostages, Nigeria’s military also uncovered guns and ammunition.
Millions of Nigerians, many of them Christian, have been displaced by Boko Haram violence extending nearly 10 years. The terrorists have claimed allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and have killed more than 20,000 people in attempts to establish strict Sharia law in Nigeria.
The terrorists have kidnapped many, with the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Chibok school girls and the 2018 kidnapping of 101 Dapchi schoolgirls the most widely reported cases. Of those, about 100 Chibok students and one Dapchi student are still believed missing.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)