Two women abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in the North-East have given a rare account of life as captives.
While one who was held captive for 15 days, said she had a marriage proposal from one of the Islamist militants, the other said she was almost turned into a killer.
“They asked me if I am Christian or Muslim. I said I am a Christian,” said 23-year-old Liatu, as she recounted her ordeal in the hands of Boko Haram members to the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“On the 11th day (in captivity), they brought a man to me and said that he liked me and that I should convert to Islam so that he can marry me,” she added in the report published by the BBC on Monday.
Liatu claimed that in Sambisa Forest, Borno State, where she was taken to after being seized at a roadblock last year, she witnessed the killing of 50 persons by the insurgents.
According to her, the insurgents, who had earlier killed Muslims employed by the government, preferred to use knives to slit peoples’ throats than shooting them.
She said, “They were slitting people’s throats with knives. Both women and men were killed, especially the men who didn’t agree to fight for them.
“Those that tried to escape were shot but they hardly ever used their guns to kill. They usually used knives. About 50 people were killed right in front of me.”
Liatu also told the BBC that the terrorists were usually tipped off about any imminent attack by the army.
This, she claimed, allowed the militants to hide in caves and forests close to the Cameroonian border.
Liatu, who refused to eat anything during her days in captivity, added that after being told about the proposed marriage, she made an extremely risky escape.
She said, “One of the captives stood up and said, ‘You only die once. Who is ready to make a run for it?’ Six of us jumped into one of the Boko Haram vehicles in the camp – a Volkswagen Golf.
“They chased us on motorbikes, shooting at the car until we got close to Bama town. Then they left and we got out of the car to continue on foot as there was a curfew in place. It was only then that I realised the three people on the backseat had all been shot dead.”
Like, Liatu, 19-year-old Janet, said she witnessed the slaughtering of people by the militants.
“They went to Gwoza and brought five people to the camp. They started slaughtering them in front of me,” said Janet, who was in the insurgents’ den for three months.
At a point, she added, the insurgents ordered her to slit the throat of one of the captured people but she declined.
“Then they ordered me to slit one of their throats. I refused. I told them I couldn’t do it. Then the wife of the leader of the group killed him instead.” Janet said.
She said she recognised the faces of the men who held her captive as most of them came from her area.
Janet said, “I knew almost all the people in the group I was with. I knew them from my home area.
“I was really angry and when I couldn’t keep quiet any longer, I said to one of them, ‘When we were at home you would even visit me and I respected you. So why are you doing this to me?”
A teacher who survived last month’s attack on a boarding school in Yobe State also narrated to the BBC how the insurgents killed some pupils in the institution.
“I peeped through the window and saw the gunshots coming in… and there was a lot of shouting,” he said, declining to give his name.
The teacher added, “I came back silently and said, ‘Let us lock our doors and pray. If they come in, that may be the end of our lives.’ We kept on praying and praying and praying.
“In one house, they even met two children that had been left behind by their parents who had fled to the bush. After coming in, the insurgents saw the children sleeping on their mattress.
“They woke them up asked them to go outside. They put the mattress outside and asked them to sleep. Then they set the house ablaze.
“We cried. Some of them were slaughtered like goats. Others were shot.
“Most of them had high hopes that they would be future leaders. Some of them in class were telling us they would be lawyers and doctors. They were full of ambition.”