Displacement & MigrationNews

Nigerian Military Hands Over 350 Sambisa Forest Rescues To Borno Authorities

The Nigerian military, on Monday, May 20, handed over 350 individuals who had regained freedom from insurgent groups to the officials of the Borno state government in northeastern Nigeria. More than half of them were children.

The Nigerian military, on Monday, May 20, handed over 350 individuals who had regained freedom from insurgent groups to officials of the Borno state government in northeastern Nigeria.  The army said the group, which includes six men, 135 women, and 209 children, was recently freed from the Sambisa Forest during a 10-day military clearance operation.

Arriving at the handover ceremony in two Tartar trucks late Monday evening, the individuals, many of whom had not bathed in days, exhibited signs of relief and excitement. The group included teenage girls with babies, likely the result of forced marriages, and a blind woman who was assisted by a soldier.

“These individuals were held against their will and are not involved in the conflict against Boko Haram,” stated Major General KE Chigbu, the deputy Theater Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, who stood in for his principal officer, Major General Waidi Shuaibu.

“We have taken steps to provide them with food and medical care, and plans are on the way to provide decent clothing for them.”

The operation, led by Brigadier General Haruna, the General Officer Commanding 7 Division and Commander of Sector One, Op’Hadin Kai, saw the elimination of Boko Haram terrorists and the destruction of their hideouts. The operation was reportedly a collaborative effort involving both local and international partners.

Among the rescued was Hajara Umara, who emerged with seven children. “I wanted to escape [from captivity] but couldn’t because of the children,” she said. “If they [the terrorists] caught you trying to escape, they would torture you and imprison you indefinitely.”

Hajara was forcibly taken to the forest more than a decade ago by men loyal to her husband, where she remained until her recent rescue. She revealed that her husband, now deceased, was an early associate of Muhammad Yusuf, the founder of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram. He fled Maiduguri during the Civilian JTF uprising in 2013, leaving his young wife, Hajara, behind. Believing he might have died, she relocated to her parents’ home in Gombe state. However, her husband’s followers tracked her down and forcefully returned her to him in the Sambisa forest.

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Abdulkareem Haruna

Abdulkareem Haruna is a Nigerian journalist currently employed as the Editor for Lake Chad at HumAngle. For over a decade, he has demonstrated a passionate commitment to reporting on the Boko Haram conflict and the crisis in the Lake Chad region of northeastern Nigeria. He is a graduate of English Language and holds a Diploma in Mass Communications. Prior to his current role, he served as an assistant editor at both Premium Times and Leadership Newspaper.

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