Abuja, Nigeria (HRW) – The Nigerian government should take urgent steps to secure the release of about 400 women and children, including at least 300 elementary school students, abducted by Boko Haram from the town of Damasak in Borno State a year ago. It is unclear whether the Nigerian government has made any serious effort to secure their release.
It was early morning when I heard gunshots and chaos. My husband had already left home for the market so I grabbed my two children, a boy age four years and a girl age two years, and ran. But we ran into Boko Haram and they detained us in the middle of the town. They brought more and more women and children to where we were kept. Then they took all of us to Zanna Mobarti Primary School…I have not seen my children since then.
The insurgents separated the women from the children and the boys from the girls. Some of the women held captive later told Human Rights Watch they could hear the screams and cries of the children, but they were not permitted to go to them. Over the following weeks and months, the militants forced their captives to learn the Quran. A number of women and children died in captivity after they were fed putrid food, which caused severe vomiting and diarrhea.
The men who were captured by Boko Haram were kept at different locations, including an estimated 80 men in the house of the district head, a witness said. In the days and weeks following the attack, some of the men were forced to dispose of bodies left on the streets and in the market area. Scores of bodies were dumped into a nearby river and makeshift graves, among other locations. A witness forced to participate in the operation said he saw hundreds of bodies.