Heartbreaking Case of Abduction, Rape, Slavery, Escape and Confusion
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service, who was born in Nigeria
BAGA, NIGERIA (ANS – October 3, 2016) – For Rebecca, a Nigerian Christian, it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it resulted her being held captive for two years by the infamous Boko Haram terror group, and giving birth to the child of one of their terrorists.
Rebecca’s is a tale of her suffering not only abduction, rape and slavery, but finally how she escaped their clutches and is now able tell her astonishing story.
According to Lois Kanalos, Founder/Advocate of Voice of the Persecuted (https://voiceofthepersecuted.wordpress.com/), Rebecca comes from Baga, a town in the extreme north of Nigeria’s Borno State.
“The town has had more than its share of atrocities at the hands of the notorious Boko Haram,” Lois told ANS. “In January 2015, the fishing town became internationally known when it was targeted in the deadliest massacre in the history of the extremist Islamic group. The attack lasted five days (Jan.3-7). Security forces had quickly responded against the militants, but fatalities were reported as ‘heavy’ with possibly 2,000 people killed or unaccounted for.
“The [Nigerian] Ministry of Defense claimed [that] no more than 150 [were] killed, and while some said the massacre never took place, or that the terrorists had been repelled. But this claim was refuted by local officials, survivors, and the international media.”
Lois continued by saying that Baga, and at least 16 other towns, were “thought to have been destroyed with 35,000 people displaced.” Many were feared to have drowned while fleeing across Lake Chad, others were trapped by Boko Haram on islands on the lake.
At that time, she went on, the attacks resulted in Boko Haram extending its control to over 70% of Borno State. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed responsibility for the massacre, and said he considered the killings as “not much” and threatened the insurgency “would not stop.” Shekau said at the time that their goal was: Total Islamic Sharia Rule.
“The group had links to al-Qaeda, but later announced their allegiance to ISIS [also known as Islamic State] in March 2015,” said Lois.
If you don’t recall the attack, it may be due to the coverage of attacks in Paris beginning at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The terrorists killed a total of 17 in four shooting attacks between Jan.7-9. For weeks, the attacks in France dominated headlines and televised news reports. On January 11, 2015 about two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a show of unity. 3.7 million people joined in demonstrations across France. The phrase “Je suis Charlie” had become a worldwide slogan of support. But compared to the coverage and solidarity with Paris, reports of the Baga massacre, said Lois, “were barely a whisper.” While the world has had their attention on ISIS, thousands have silently been slaughtered for the past seven years by Boko Haram, also known by some as “the deadliest terror group in the world.”
Sadly, outside Nigeria, the land of my birth, most attacks went virtually unnoticed, though the Baga attack was picked up by some of the media, after it had claimed so many lives.
Some weeks ago, Voice of the Persecuted, a US-based group that is on the ground helping to care for the persecuted in Nigeria, told the ASSIST News Service that it had received a report from its project leader in Nigeria “that literally brought us to tears.” And for good reason!
“In full detail, the report described the ordeal of a Christian woman who had escaped the clutches of Boko Haram militants after being held by the terrorists for two years,” said Lois Kanalos. “The family of Bitrus and his wife, Rebecca, have an extremely sorrowful story to share. They were residents of Baga when it came under a ferocious attack by the Boko Haram on the August 21, 2014 — an attack that came before the brutal massacre and complete terrorist occupation of Baga in 2015.
“It was extremely hard for the couple to discuss all that had happened. But bravely, Rebecca [along with her husband,] narrated the story to one of our Nigerian correspondents, Fr. Gideon Obasogie, Directorate of Social Communications in Maiduguri, Nigeria.”
Rebecca explained that “in great confusion” she fled her “lovely home with her husband and their two sons, Zachariah, who was three years and Jonathan, one.” At the time, she was also expecting a third child, but lost her pregnancy “due to the subhuman conditions she was subjected to.”
While fleeing the Boko Haram attack on that fateful day, Rebecca said that she knew that her husband would be the terrorists “primary target.” With the radical militants in hot pursuit, she stated that she feared that Bitrus could not “run fast enough while carrying their one-year-old son.” Rebecca also had developed severe pains from running and found it hard to go on.
In her report, she said that she pleaded with her husband to “run” and save his life, and fervently urged him to leave them behind. In the panic, Bitrus finally heeded her advice and ran quickly to hide in the bush.
While Bitrus shared his story, the report continued, “he looked at his wife with a feeling of deep shame for not being her hero at that desperate moment of their lives. Guilt for not protecting his family when they needed him the most.” But Rebecca had been correct, the militants did go after Bitrus. They continually sprayed bullets in his direction, but were unsuccessful to find him, and amazingly, no bullet ever touched him.
After some time, Bitrus emerged from his hiding place, but by now had become separated from his wife and children. When the Boko Haram fighters quit hunting him, they had turned back towards the location of his family, leaving Bitrus imagining what would become of his wife and children and also what to do next.
Promising himself to reconnect with his family, he trusted that God would keep them alive. He moved with renewed hope to the nearby town of Mongonu, and waited there for 15 days, desperately scanning the crowds in anticipation of the arrival of his wife and kids. Day after day, Bitrus searched for his family and met and spoke with a lot of people coming out of Baga.
“I kept on asking them of the whereabouts of my wife, but no one could tell me any good news,” he said. “I became depressed with severe migraines and my blood pressure hit the roof. Some soldiers assisted me with a shelter to lay my head. They gave me some money, which I used to transport myself to Maiduguri. My uncle pleaded with me to not to be discouraged. He even took me to the hospital for medication. He tried to renew my hope, but he couldn’t stop the nightmares, or my heartache. Leaving behind my family, and everything else that I ever had, was not an easy experience to come by.”
Then Rebecca took up the story, saying, “When Bitrus fled to hide, Boko Haram came to me. They kept saying, ‘…da mun kashe Mujin ki..da mun Sami lada….ama ton da Allah bai bari ba…ke da yaran ki sai ku je ku yi aikin Allah,’ meaning ‘…if only we had killed your husband, we would have received Allah’s reward…but since Allah did not permit that…. you and your children will go and work for Allah.” Thereafter, they hit me with the butt of a big gun and knocked out some of my teeth.”
When asked what happened next, Rebecca broke down in tears. With great compassion, Fr. Gideon encouraged her and she quietly told him, “That was when my nightmare began.” After killing all the men, they had caught, Boko Haram militants then moved Rebecca and her sons into the Lake Chad region. They were fed nothing but chin-chin (a crunchy, baked or fried dough) as they were forced to wade through the water for nearly a week.
Rebecca said, “Crossing the lake was like an evil journey” with the water often coming up to her neck. On the seventh day, they arrived at a place called Kwalleram, and stayed there for about 53 days.
The report then stated that Rebecca, “was forced to clean, wash and cook for the for militants and their wives.” Sometimes she was assigned the task of clearing pathways for the militants’ motorcycles.
Then, for fear that she might try to escape, the Boko Haram fighters moved her, and her sons to Gurva, a town in Chad. There she found 2,000 other Nigerians who had been captured by Boko Haram and forced to farm and cut wood for fuel.
About two months later, she moved again. This she and the children were taken to a town called Tilma.
“It was in Tilma that they branded the number ‘69’ on my back,” said Rebecca. “I don’t really know its meaning, and I never cared to ask. They then sold me to a man called Bage Guduma and I was with him for 55 days. I was given palm fruits to eat, but thank God I didn’t eat any of it as I knew it would have drugged me and resulted in the loss of my senses. Most nights, Bage Guduma wanted to touch me, but I did not give in to him. I couldn’t bear the thought, so I took the feces of my children and rubbed it on my body…this kept him away. But for this, his sons would ruthlessly beat me.
Her son was drowned in Lake Chad
“They made me dig a hole for three weeks until I hit the water level,” she continued. “They often flogged me with 98 lashes and I became ill for two weeks. Then, they took my one-year-old son, Jonathan, and threw him into Lake Chad. My son drowned and died.”
Then, with deep sorrow as tears rolled down her cheeks, she added, “All these terrible things happened because I refused to give up my body.”
Rebecca then recounted that she was then “given” to another Boko Haram militant called Malla. “They tried to force me to sleep with him, but when I resisted, they threw me into their prison, a dark pit. I was in that awful pit for two whole days without food or water. When I came out, Malla brutally forced himself on me and I eventually became pregnant. I tried to kill myself, but the wife of a pastor, herself abducted from Gwoza, pleaded with me not to take my life. She already had two children fathered by the militants.
“When the time came for me to give birth, I delivered alone. No one came to my aid. I cut the placenta myself and was in great pain. I received no medical attention. They named my son, Ibrahim. They liked him because he was a boy. The fighters always want women who give birth to male children. Malla had traveled out of the area, and returned six weeks after I had given birth. I had nothing to do with him.”
Her latest owner, Malla, began to grow tired of Rebecca and promised to sell her to another man. It was then she decided to try and escape. At a time, when most of the Boko Haram fighters had left the enclave, Rebecca sought permission from a female Boko Haram militant, probably the commander’s wife, to go and see a friend in another area controlled by the Boko Haram. When the permission was granted, Rebecca headed instead to a small community called Maitele. From there, she took her sons and joined others as they walked for six days towards what they hoped was the Nigerian border.
Her son became ill for lack of water and food, but suddenly, there was a heavy downpour of rain which renewed and revived their strength for the journey, which for many would be towards an unknown destination. However, not for Rebecca, though she was unsure of her location, she pressed on with much hope and faith in the Lord to have a safe landing.
She eventually ended up in Diffa, a town in Niger. With the help of others, she met military personnel operating in the area. There, the military in Niger, gave them “much needed medical care and something to eat.” Soon after, they were taken to a town called Damaturu, in Nigeria, and left in the care of some Nigerian soldiers. The military eventually helped her to reunite with her husband, Bitrus. Rebecca has nothing but praise for the military personnel she had met in Niger and Nigeria, including some of whom she thinks may have been US military personnel.
Reunited with her husband
Finally, they were reunited, and Bitrus said, “Seeing my wife with the son of a Boko Haram father, frightened me a lot. I was very happy to see my wife, but the boy made my heart break. May God make me love him…yes, the son of a snake,” he said with some bitterness.
Rebecca revealed that she is “unsure” what will happen between her and Bitrus, saying that if her husband “does not come to terms with the presence of the child,” she is contemplating relocating to join her parents who are currently living in Cameroon. She has pleaded with Bitrus to receive her “as she is,” and if he is still, hesitant she said in a hopeless tone, “I will give him his son and go to my parents.”
Sometimes, said Rebecca, she too has mixed feelings about her son, Ibrahim. This is compounded by the stigma that traumatized women and girls rescued, along with children, who had been fathered by Boko Haram fighters, encounter from their own communities. Rebecca has even tried to give the child “to the government” but the military personnel has encouraged her to “keep the child,” especially as Ibrahim is now only eight months old.
Caring for This Family
For now, Bitrus, Rebecca and the boys, are in the custody of the local church. They are staying in an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp that Voice of the Persecuted is helping to care for. Currently, there are 500 people staying in that camp.
“This case seems to place everyone in a moral fix,” Lois Kanalos told ANS. “But time heals and Rebecca is really a strong woman of faith! All she needs is thorough medical attention, food to eat, clothes to wear, a good shelter, bedding for her troubled head, and love from the Body of Christ, meaning all of us!
“With the generosity of all of those who are helping to support this mission, we at Voice of the Persecuted have been able to provide Rebecca and her family with their immediate needs. Thank you so much! It’s because of people like you that we are able to step in and care for this troubled family. Our aim is to give them hope, and know God is with them in providing for their needs.”
Lois added, “Rebecca will also need systematic trauma counseling. Her older child, now six-years-old, will need to go to school. Her husband, Bitrus also needs time to heal and guidance from the Lord. We can do our part by loving and having compassion on this family. Let us step in to continue covering this family, monthly, until they are able to stand on their own. Please could you show them some LOVE?”
To contact Lois for more information on how you can help this family, just e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a donation, please go to: https://voiceofthepersecuted.wordpress.com/donate/, and their mailing address is: Voice of the Persecuted, 2740 Third Street, P.O. Box 122, Trenton, MI. 48183, USA.
As a final note: According to Voice of the Persecuted, “Over 100,000,000 Christians around the world are at risk of persecution. Some tell us that number is much higher. It’s become one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet, today. [It is] a crisis point in history that can no longer be overlooked, or millions more will suffer! Sadly, it’s a crisis that not enough people realize exists. Unfortunately, the western media under-reports the extreme persecution inflicted on our Christian brothers and sisters, worldwide.”
Photo captions: 1) Rebecca and Bitrus, and the two boys, at the Nigeria IDP camp, where they are currently living. (Photo: Voice of the Persecuted). 2) Boko Haram killers in training. 3) Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a video. 3) Brothers, Zachariah (6 years) and Ibrahim (8 months) born on Dec. 25th. (Photo: Voice of the Persecuted). 4) Little Ibrahim with a swollen navel/tummy. (Photo: Voice of the Persecuted). 5) Dan Wooding being held by his mother, Anne Wooding, shortly after he was born at Vom Christian Hospital in Northern Nigeria, in December of 1940.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. While still based in London, Wooding was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest-circulation newspapers, and was an interviewer for BBC Radio One and also for LBC, the capital city’s main commercial talk station. Dan now has a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com. (Dan Juma is his Hausa name which means Son of Friday).
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