By Emma Farge and Alex Whiting
DAKAR/LONDON – Boko Haram Islamic militants have kidnapped at least 2,000 girls and women since the start of last year, turning them into cooks, sex slaves and fighters, and sometimes killing those who refused to comply, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
The human rights group’s 90-page report based on dozens of interviews with witnesses and escaped abductees comes a year after the group seized more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, a community deep inside an area of northeastern Nigeria the fighters claimed as their caliphate.
The kidnapping, and a video showing the captured girls dressed in dark hijabs soon afterwards, provoked international outrage. But the majority are still missing despite Western pledges to help track them down and a Chadian attempt to broker their release.
Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, claims the girls had been “married off” to his fighters.
Amnesty’s report said that Boko Haram, meaning Western education is sinful in Hausa, routinely rounded up women and girls after taking control of a town and held them in houses or prisons.
A 19-year-old woman told Amnesty how she had been abducted at a wedding in September 2014 alongside the bride and the bride’s sister and then held at a training camp in Madagali alongside hundreds of female fighters.
“I was among the girls trained to shoot. I was also trained how to use bombs and how to attack a village,” said the woman, who was gang-raped several times by the guerillas and wished to remain anonymous. She told Amnesty some of those who refused to convert to Islam or to fight were dumped in a mass grave.
Many men who refuse to join Boko Haram’s ranks have also been killed. Two young men told researchers that at least 100 were executed in one day in December when the armed group took over Madagali. They survived because the killers’ knives had become too blunt to slit more throats.