NORTHEAST NIGERIA (BP) — More than 60 Nigerian women and girls Boko Haram abducted from northeast Nigeria two weeks ago have escaped and are reunited with their families, the Associated Press reported today (July 7).
The women and girls are not part of the 273 schoolgirls Boko Haram kidnapped in mid-April, 219 of whom remain missing and are perhaps enslaved as wives of Muslim men.
Nigerian government officials had denied the June abductions of the women and girls, some as young as 3, despite eye witness accounts that Boko Haram took the women while attacking Kummabza and surrounding villages three days in late June. The women and girls escaped on or around July 3 while Boko Haram extremists were busy attacking military barracks and the police headquarters in Damboa town, AP reported, attributing the information to Pogu Bitrus, the Chibok local government chairman.
Responding to Boko Haram’s attack on Damboa, the Nigerian army killed 53 terrorists and lost six Nigerian soldiers in the battle, Reuters reported Sunday (July 6). Nigerian security officials have been known to inflate numbers when reporting of attacks against Boko Haram, Reuters added in the report.
Friday (July 4), a suicide bomber killed five Muslims and wounded dozens in an attack on a mosque in the remote village of Konduga in northeast Nigeria, Reuters reported. The attack is believed to have occurred a few yards from the mosque while the Muslims were praying.
Boko Haram has intensified attacks in northeast Nigeria since April, killing Christians and moderate Muslims who do not agree with the extremists’ militant tactics. The militants have killed more than 1,000 Nigerians this year, hundreds of them since April, according to news reports.
Amid the attacks, Christians are still spreading the Gospel, says Nigerian relations expert Adeniya Ojutiku, a Raleigh, N.C., Southern Baptist who has organized the grassroots group Lift Up Now to improve the lives of Nigerians in his homeland.
In the village of Attagara, one of three northeastern Nigerian villages where Boko Haram attacked churches and killed more than 200 worshipers June 1, Christianity was spreading, Ojutiku told Baptist Press, based on a firsthand account from a Lift Up Now volunteer there.
“Because of their passion for evangelism, they went to nearby villages and converted over 3,500 peoples to Christianity and planted a church in villages like Aganjara, Agamanchiya and Angurva with multiple disciples,” the volunteer told Ojutiku in an email July 3rd.
“They were popularly known for their faith in Christ,” the email reads. “They had over 50 ordained ministers in different denominations. … Sometimes the [Muslim] community called them ‘RADICALS FOR JESUS’ because of [their behavior] in holding to faith.”
The volunteer summarized in the email one of the June 1 attacks reported previously in Baptist Press.
“On Sunday … around 9:00 a.m. when the Christians wanted to start their morning service, over 100 Islamic militants dressed in different kind of [clothes] including Army Uniforms came to Attagara village in Gwoza local government with dangerous weapons chanting ‘ALHAHU AKBAR’ (sic) meaning Allah is great and stormed into the church and opened fire on the worshipers,” the volunteer wrote. “They killed 9 instantly and shot over 50 with terrible degrees of injuries. When the worshipers with gun-shot wounds were trying to escape, they kept on following them and shooting them again till they succeeded in killing over 27 Christians that day. They went ahead with killing little children and burning houses.”
When some of the Christians ran to a military checkpoint less than two miles away, the volunteer wrote, military officials refused to help. Community members organized a vigilante group in response and killed seven Boko Haram terrorists, the volunteer wrote.
Regarding the 219 Chibok schoolgirls still missing in the April kidnapping, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reported in June that the girls had been located, but that the use of force to capture them would endanger their lives.
Nigerian investigators submitted their final report June 20 on the Chibok kidnapping, expressing regret that the girls remain captive.
Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).