Image: Esther with baby Rebecca (Esther* was captured by Boko Haram from October 2015 – November 2016. She was under constant pressure to denounce her faith and was tragically raped multiple times by different men. She became pregnant and has no idea who the father is.)
Fears are growing that the girls still missing after Boko Haram attacked a boarding school in Nigeria’s north-eastern state of Yobe on Monday night (19 February) have been taken by the militant group.
The attack comes almost four years after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok, in neighbouring Borno State. Many of those girls have since escaped or were rescued by the military, but 112 remain missing and are thought to be being held by Boko Haram.
It was originally reported that the students had run into the bush to hide and were safe. But over a week later the government confirmed that 110 girls had been abducted from the Government Girls Science and Technical College in Dapchi. Dapchi is a Muslim dominated town, but we understand that there were Christians attending the school. In the Name List of the 105 missing girls taken from Dapchi, there is a Christian girl named Leah Sherubu
Aisha Yusuf Abdullahi, 16, was amongst the girls who managed to escape. She told AFP: “We were in the mosque and about to start evening prayers when we heard gunshots. We rushed out and ran towards the gate. It was closed… Out of panic, some climbed the fence to waiting vehicles outside and just jumped in, not knowing whose vehicles they were… We have not heard from those who entered the vehicles outside the school. We have the feeling they were taken by the gunmen.”
According to World Watch Monitor’s local source, the attackers arrived in military vehicles and told the girls they were the army coming to protect them. Again, there are echoes of the Chibok attack, when one survivor told World Watch Monitor that when men on several vehicles arrived at their school, “we thought they were military”.
One man whose niece went missing during the attack, told AFP, “We have the fear that we are dealing with another Chibok scenario.”
Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency has claimed more than 20,000 lives and forced more than 2 million others to flee. Over the years, countless women and girls have been captured by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
On Monday, the Ministry of Justice announced that 205 people were sentenced to between 3 and 60 years in prison for their involvement with the militant Islamist group. According to Reuters another 526 people were “released for rehabilitation” and “73 cases had been adjourned”.
Not Just Girls
We should not forget that school girls are not the only people who were abducted. An estimated 2,000 other women, girls and young men remain in Boko Haram captivity. Boko Haram continues attacks and mass abductions from villages and roadsides. Captives are forced to convert, married off to militants and those who refuse suffer extreme violence.
- For comfort and strength for those who remain captive to Boko Haram, and for their swift release.
- For God to reveal himself to members of Boko Haram and turn their hearts to him.
- For wisdom for the Nigerian government to know how to stop extremist violence and support victims of persecution.
Source: World Watch Monitor
*Name changed for security reason