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Rescued Boko Haram Captives Recall Their Ordeal


Hundreds of Nigerian women and children have been freed from captivity by the Nigerian military in the past week. They had been held captive by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Associated Press correspondent Michelle Faul spoke with some of the women, who are now at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria. I asked her if any of the rescued women or girls were part of the Chibok girls, the focus of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

MICHELLE FAUL: That's not clear. The army has actually rescued nearly 700 women in the past week. And then last night, they said that they had come upon another group of 260, so you're talking a lot, a lot of women. The women that we spoke to in Yola were the first group to reach the safety of a refugee camp. None of them who were registered said that they were from Chibok.

BLOCK: Michelle, what happens with these women and children now? Where do they go?

FAUL: Well, they're going to stay in the refugee camp probably for several weeks. A team of people trained in trauma counseling arrived in Yola this morning. And I spoke with the doctor who's in charge of the team, and he has counseled other women who've been held for many months by Boko Haram. And he said some of them are so brainwashed that they actually have come to believe this Islamic extremist ideology and believe that Boko Haram is good and that the government of Nigeria and the military are evil. And it really takes a lot of hard work to put these women back into a mental frame of mind where they can continue with their lives.

BLOCK: Do you have any sense, Michelle, of what sort of stigma these women and girls may face if they do go back to their home communities?

FAUL: I think there's a very real danger that some of them may be shunned because it is assumed that any young girl who was held was raped. I have spoken with other young women who escaped from Boko Haram on their own, and they told me that they were not. But I must say I wondered. When I was looking at the very many children and babies who came in this new group, I did wonder whose children those were.

BLOCK: Is there one story that you heard from the women at the refugee camp who've been rescued - one story that has really stuck with you about what they endured?

FAUL: Bingta Ibrahim (ph) - she was 16 years old when she was abducted and taken with her sister-in-law and two other sisters to a village where she found three children who'd been abandoned in the warzone. But she knew the parents of these kids, so she took them under her care. Now, bear in mind, she's 16 years old. This was 13 months ago. Six months ago, there was an air raid on the village where they were, and her sisters said, let's go. We can escape. There was pandemonium, chaos - let's go. And her sisters escaped, and she didn't. She said, how could I abandon those children again?

And what really touched me about this - Bingta is a Muslim. The three children that she brought to safety at that refugee camp are all Christians. Now the Islamic uprising in the Northeast has really polarized Nigerians across the country on religious lines. And here's this young girl. When I said to her, you know, how do you feel about the kids? She says, I love them like they are my own. And she, like, beat her chest with both her fists to show how deep her love is for them.

BLOCK: And the real question now is what happens to them from here?

FAUL: Well, she's hoping that there are parents alive out there that she'll be able to return the children to.

BLOCK: Michelle Faul, thank you for talking with us.

FAUL: Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: Michelle Faul is Nigeria bureau chief for the Associated Press. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.