By Julia Payne
MALKOHI, Nigeria – Boko Haram is fracturing as shortages of weapons and fuel foment tensions between its foot soldiers and leaders, women rescued from the Islamist jihadi fighters by Nigerian troops told Reuters.
The group abducted an estimated 2,000 women and girls last year as it sought to carve out an Islamic state in the northeast of Africa’s biggest economy. The army has freed nearly 700 in the past week as it advances on Boko Haram’s last stronghold in the vast Sambisa forest.
The militants began complaining to their captives about lacking guns and ammunition last month, two of the women said, and many were reduced to carrying sticks while some of their vehicles were either broken down or lacked gasoline.
A 45-year old mother of two, Aisha Abbas, who was taken from Dikwa in April, said the fighters all had guns at first but recently, only some carried them.
Even the wife of their captors’ leader, Adam Bitri, openly criticized him and subsequently fled, two of the women said, with one describing Bitri as short and fat with a beard.
Of 275 freed captives brought to a government-run camp for internally displaced people in the Malkohi hamlet on the outskirts of Adamawa state capital, Yola, only 61 were over 18, and many small children hobbled around visibly malnourished.
The women said they were kept inside, occasionally brought food and sometimes beaten severely. The children were left to run around or do errands for Boko Haram while those of the fighters were trained to shoot guns.
“One evening in April, Boko Haram followers stood before us and said ‘Our leaders don’t want to give us enough fuel and guns and now the soldiers are encroaching on us in Sambisa. We will leave you.’” one of the women, 18-year old Binta Ibrahim from northern Adamawa state said.