Lagos – Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau directly ordered women to be killed in the northeast Nigerian town of Gwoza, one man who was forcibly conscripted into the militant ranks claimed on Friday.
Usman Ali said he witnessed the killing in the town, which the group’s elusive leader proclaimed as part of a caliphate last year and which has generally been seen as the militants’ headquarters.
Another local man, Haruna Abubakar, also confirmed the massacre in the Borno state town but neither was able to say how many women were killed.
There has also been speculation that the 219 kidnapped schoolgirls from Chibok who have been held by Boko Haram since last April were in Gwoza but both said there was no sign of them.
There has been increasing evidence that Boko Haram has committed atrocities as the coalition regains ground.
Residents who fled the town of Bama, also in Borno state, earlier this month, also reported that dozens of women forced into marriage with Boko Haram fighters were killed.
Ali, a 35-year-old farmer, said the rebels came to his village of Kilekasa, 55km from Gwoza and about 15 km from Chibok late on Friday 13 March.
In the convoy of about 46 all-terrain pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns were two armoured vehicles, he said, adding: “Shekau drove in a black Toyota jeep.”
Shekau was taken to the village of Huyum about five kilometres away and the following morning all residents of Kilekasa were assembled and able-bodied men were given guns.
“We had no choice,” he told AFP, adding that one man who tried to flee was executed in front of them.
“On Sunday 15 March, Shekau assembled his men including us, the new recruits, and addressed us. He said they should go back to Gwoza and kill all of their women they left behind.
“He said if they didn’t kill them they would not join them in paradise. They took us along to Gwoza where we witnessed the carnage.
“They gathered the women who were in large number and opened fire on them.
“One of the women who was heavily pregnant asked to be spared until she delivered her baby but her request was turned down.”
Ali said he returned to Kilekasa later that day and fled at nightfall to Yola, the capital of neighbouring Adamawa state.
“I don’t know what has been the fate of the people in the village. When we went to Gwoza we didn’t see any sign of the girls from Chibok. They must have been moved to another place,” he added.
Abubakar, who fled Gwoza to a camp for internally displaced people in Yola, said his aunt left the town on 16 March.
“She told me that Boko Haram moved out of the town three days earlier at night in several vehicles. They returned on Sunday and killed their wives, some of them pregnant,” he said.
“They gathered them in one place and shot them dead. She said there were no Boko Haram gunmen when she left Gwoza. She didn’t know where they moved to.
“When I asked her about the whereabouts of the Chibok girls she told me they were not in Gwoza”.