Young people, with dreams of an education enabling them to become the future leaders, doctors and professionals of Nigeria, have been slaughtered indiscriminately, cut down by the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram.
Others, instead of using their time to study, many who have survived the horrific terror attacks by the group, have now put aside their studies and joined vigilante groups, forced to defend themselves against a five-year insurgency movement that has displaced over a quarter of a million people and has caused a humanitarian crisis for more than three million in three northern Nigerian states.
Although the government claims to have backed the terrorists into on the border, the group has managed to increase its horrific attacks on schools and villages in the recent months. Last month alone, an attack on a boys dormitory school left 29 dead, “slaughtered like goats. Others were shot,” according to a teacher that survived the attack.
Boko Haram, which literally means “Western education is a sin,” has as its ultimate goal is the establishment a sharia-based Islamic state in northern Nigeria. In the meantime, their goal of shutting down Western education, is, unfortunately working, as 100 schools have been closed in wake of the terrorist groups’ recent attacks on them.
A 23-year-old woman, identified by the pseudonym Liatu, who was kidnapped by Boko Haram at a road block set up by the terrorist, said in an interview that the terrorists were usually alerted to any upcoming attack by the Nigerian army. This has allowed them to take refuge in caves and forests close to the Cameroonian border, where the army claims they are cornered. Yet, the terrain makes the actual apprehension of the terrorists extremely difficult.
In addition, many have escaped notice of the army.
Liatu survived a daring escape, in which a number of her fellow escaping captives were shot. Tales of horror pepper her description of her 15 days of captivity, "Those that tried to escape were shot, but they hardly ever used their guns to kill. They usually used knives. About 50 people were killed right in front of me," she told a BBC reporter.
Another captive, identified as Janet, a 19 year-old, told the same reporter similar horrors of executions.
"They went to Gwoza and brought five people to the camp. They started slaughtering them in front of me. Then they ordered me to slit one of their throats. I refused. I told them I couldn't do it. Then the wife of the leader of the group killed him instead,” she said.
Janet recognized the killers as being from her home region. One day, Janet relates, "I was really angry and when I couldn't keep quiet any longer, I said to one of them, 'When we were at home you would even visit me and I respected you. So why are you doing this to me?'"
Janet says the outburst saved her life.
One of the most difficult aspects of fighting the terrorists has been to identify them. Some members of the group remain undercover, creating an atmosphere of distrust in many communities.
A businessman from the capital, who was instrumental in helping the Nigerian police arrest 11 Boko Haram terrorists, told the BBC that he believes that undercover informants are working in stalls in the markets, sent to be the “eyes and ears” of the group and indicating that Boko Haram’s presence stretches far beyond the northern regions of the country.