500 Children Taken by Boko Haram from Nigerian City
As thousands of refugees return home to northern Nigeria, they are discovering, with great shock, the scale of devastation left by Boko Haram.
In Damasak (Borno State), a city once occupied by the Islamist extremists, hundreds of children are missing. Boko Haram seized most of them in the fall of 2014. In April, the militants had carried off 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, which then became the subject of a global campaign known as #BringBackOurGirls.
But there has been little attention to the lost children of Damasak… Residents say the missing children totals more than 500.
In the ruins of the city, everyone seems to be missing a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister.
Many of the children had been held at the school by Boko Haram until March 2015, when a multinational military force converged on Damasak, part of a major offensive to defeat the guerrillas. The insurgents fled with the children—which was the last time they were seen.
Two years later, many residents have now returned from living as refugees in neighboring Niger. Others had fled to remote villages in Nigeria. Some spent time in the forest, living off wild fruits and running every time they heard Boko Haram fighters.
The Nigerian government, backed by a generous international assistance package, has vowed to restore normality…
But the least normal thing about Damasak—its hundreds of missing children—remains unresolved.
The Chibok girls have been the focus of prolonged negotiations that led to the release of 21 of them last October. President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged again and again to free the rest.
Many of the kidnapped girls and women were forced into marriage with the fighters. Other girls mysteriously reappeared as suicide bombers years later. The boys sometimes became child soldiers. The men were often killed immediately.
*Join us in prayer for the missing children of Damasak. Pray that God would change the hearts of their persecutors—and pave a way for the children to return home once again.