Leah Sharibu escaped for three days but was recaptured, her mates said.
Leah Sharibu escaped from her captors and roamed for three days before she was captured and sent back to captivity, Aisha Ibiwa, her friend and classmate said to the Guardian in an interview. “She didn’t tell us she was leaving,” Aisha said, “We thought she was just going round the corner, but she sneaked out along with Maryam and Amira [her classmates].” Aisah added.
Leah, the only Christian among the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped by Al-Barnawi’s faction of the Islamic Jihadi Boko Haram terror group on the 19th February, was said to have escaped her captors but the 15 year old could not make her way back to Dapchi from where they were held captive, her classmates described as somewhere near the Lake in neighbouring Chad republic.
Leah, who according to her school mates, refused to renounce her religion and convert to Islam, was held back by her captors when the others were released.
When Leah and the two friends that escaped walked for three days, Hajara Adamu, another friend narrated, hungry and exhausted, they met a nomadic Fulani family and asked for help to get back to Dapchi. But the Fulani only scolded them ans sent them right back to Al Barnawi their kidnapper.
“The Fulani man said to them: ‘So you are the missing girls that we’ve heard about on the radio.’ (recognizing them as the Dapchi schoolgirls spoken about in local radios) He gave them a jerrycan filled with cow’s milk and brought them back,” Hajara said.
“Leah and her group weren’t flogged. They [Boko Haram] said it was because they had suffered a lot while trying to escape.” She said.
Hajara herself tried to escape, she said, but was caught when she said, she asked some local women for directions. She was whipped and made to squat and leap like a frog back to the camp with a gun at her back, she said. “They started laughing at us and even insulting us, saying that we wanted to go back to the land of unbelievers,” Hajara said.
Hajara, and any who tried to escape, were given 10 strokes each.
Another girl was beaten with a branch from a thorn tree, before the kidnappers changed to a leather whip. Hajara, however, and some of her friends, smartly wrapped blankets under their hijabs to reduce the impact. “It wasn’t painful, but we had to pretend it was, but not cry, because they said whoever cried would get twice as many strokes,” she said.
Narrating how some of the girls died, Fatima Abdullahi said when they were kidnapped, the terrorists pilled them up in a truck, they were too many in the truck and some of the girls were trampled on and suffocated. “They were saying ‘Pull us up or we’ll die,’ but I couldn’t help them,” Fatima said. “They just threw us all into the vehicle, that’s why we were piled up like that. I was lucky that someone pulled me up.”
Their kidnappers paid attention, to the screaming from the girls and five died as they through the night. “In the early morning, they dug a hole and put their bodies in it. They didn’t give them an Islamic burial, and they didn’t pray.” Hajara said.
The Islamic terrorist sect carrying the girls hid during the day and moved by night. The girls said they drove through shrubs, and where they came to a stream, they walked up to their necks through the water and hiked for hours through forest, before being rowed on wooden canoes to board the biggest boat the girls had ever seen.
The girls said they finally arrived at a village called Tumbu Gini, in ‘Tabdichadi,’ meaning “water of Lake Chad” in the Lake Chad region, near the border with Cameroon and Chad as they later gathered from other people. It was a place covered by lots of trees and from time to time they watched aircraft circle overhead.
At the camp, they had only two guards. They met the “the Khalifa” a tall, dark-skinned, youngish man with a long beard, suspected to be Al Barnawi himself, the son of the founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. Al Barnawi was endorsed by ISIS in 2016 to be the leader of Boko Haram, a move which split the group into two as Abubakar Shekau was not ready to relinquish his position as the leader.
Al Barnawi, the girls said, came weekly to see them, during their four weeks in captivity and would preach to them. He reassured them that they would not stay in captivity for long. “We don’t have any issue with you – our issue is with the government,” Hajara remembered him saying. “They’ve taken our men. Don’t worry, you’ll all go home soon.” Al Barnawi said.
“He’d take off his balaclava and say: ‘You shouldn’t go back to Nigeria. It’s a country of sinners and unbelievers. When you go back, convince your parents to come back here to the Islamic caliphate with you.’” Hajara recalled him saying.
When they were released, after a negotiation by the Nigerian government in which money was given and Boko Haram terrorists were released according to reports which the government denies, the girls came back with a small the small container of milk Leah was given by the Fulani family when they took her back to captivity after her escape. They still have it and would want to give it to Leah’s mother whenever they meet.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos
Image Credits: Google Images/Boko Haram Propaganda video/Dapchi Schoolgirls/