LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian soldiers and self-defense forces have raped women who were rescued from the Boko Haram extremist group, Amnesty International alleged in a new report Thursday that Nigeria’s military swiftly dismissed as “false.”
The report alleges that thousands of women and girls were separated from their families in camps in northeastern Nigeria and abused. Some were raped in exchange for food and others were beaten and called “Boko Haram wives,” the report says.
The report is the latest allegation of human rights abuses by Nigeria’s security forces as they try to combat the Islamic extremist group that has displaced millions of people over the years and killed or abducted tens of thousands.
The Amnesty International report, based on more than 250 interviews as recently as April, says the alleged abuses occurred as Nigeria’s military pushed to reclaim territory from Boko Haram starting in 2015.
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Thousands of civilians freed during the operations were ordered into displacement camps where thousands of people died between late 2015 and late 2016 from lack of food, water and health care, the human rights group says. That situation improved once aid groups began raising the alarm.
“Many of these women and men said that they had suffered brutally under Boko Haram and were hoping to be rescued, only to find themselves attacked by the military,” the report says. “Women have been affected in disproportionate and gender-specific ways and continue to face ongoing discrimination and violence.”
Nigeria’s government rejected the Amnesty report as “short on credibility,” while the military in a separate statement called it part of a “malicious trend” by the human rights group.
Boko Haram continues to carry out deadly attacks in northeastern Nigeria despite repeated claims by the government and military that its insurgency has been crushed. The extremist group’s attacks often are carried out by women or children who have been kidnapped and indoctrinated.
The Amnesty International report says hundreds of women and girls have been detained “in deplorable conditions” and often without charge in military barracks in Maiduguri city, the birthplace of the Boko Haram insurgency, as suspicions among authorities remain high against people freed from territory held by the extremists.
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