The Al Qaeda-affiliated Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has begun abducting Christian women, forcing them to convert to Islam, then marrying them off to jihadi fighters, according to several media reports.
Reuters spoke with a survivor of such an ordeal, a 19-year-old girl identified only as Hajja who spent three months living as a slave in a 14-member guerrilla unit. She was forced to cook and clean for the Boko Haram unit and to carry ammunition for them as they moved around the rugged mountain terrain by day and slept in caves at night.
“If I cried, they beat me. If I spoke, they beat me. They told me I must become a Muslim but I refused again and again,” Hajja told Reuters.
Eventually, she was forced to convert to Islam and was set to be married to one of the militants but succeeded in escaping. She says she was never raped during her three month nightmare.
“They were about to slaughter me and one of them begged me not to resist and just before I had my throat slit I relented. They put a veil on me and made me read from the Koran,” she said.
Hajja went along with the unit on dozens of attacks in which police and suspected collaborators were killed. In one particularly grisly episode, Hajja was forced to lure civilians working for the army. Five approached her, and were then ambushed by the Boko Haram gang.
“They took them back to a cave and tied them up. They cut their throats, one at a time…I thought my heart would burst out of my chest, because I was the bait,” Hajja told Reuters.
The Muslim wife of the group’s leader participated in killing the men, Hajja said.
Reuters reported that Boko Haram once called itself the “Nigerian Taliban” and that the group “sees all non-Muslims as infidels who must convert or be killed.”
Hajja managed to escape by feigning severe stomach pains. The Islamist militants sent her to a hospital with an older woman. Once they reached outsiders, Hajja threatened she would inform against the group, and her escort fled.
“I finally tore off the veil and I cried,” Hajja said. “So many times I thought I’d die.”
Persecution.org reported that the accumulation of wives is part of Boko Haram’s strategy to regroup and withdraw to the hills.
In July, Agenzia Fides also received reports from the Christian community in northern Nigeria which was “alarmed by a phenomenon that is spreading,” that is the kidnapping of Christian girls under age 18, who are then forced to convert to Islam.
Earlier this month, Islamic militants attacked a wedding convoy in northeast Nigeria, killing more than 30 people including the groom.
The State Department States designated Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization last week. It holds the group responsible for killing thousands in Nigeria over the last several years.