Thamina Mahmood was one of the dozens of people abducted by Boko Haram fighters who attacked an Abuja-Kaduna train about two months ago. In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust, Thamina, who was earlier reported by the media to have given birth in captivity, debunked the claim. The woman, who spoke in Hausa, said she was recently released by her abductors because of her delicate condition. She said they gave her a message to President Muhammadu Buhari and security agencies stating what must be done for the remaining abductees to regain their freedom. Excerpts:
You are one of the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, can you tell us how it happened?
We were in the 6 pm train travelling to Kaduna from Abuja on the 28th of March. It was about 15 to 20 minutes to Kaduna that we felt the train made an unusual movement. Then we heard a sound that was later said to be a bomb explosion.
From then on, so many things happened. The only thing I can remember was how we were asked to just lie down. There were sounds of gunshots and we were then led into the bush along with others in the coach.
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We trekked long distances in the bush – over 60 of us. At some places, we were carried on motorcycles. After four days, we reached where they kept us, deep inside the forest. They gave us food and water. We didn’t know why they took us; we didn’t even know who kidnapped us. It was some days later that we realized they were Boko Haram fighters.
What was their reason?
They told us that they were not after us and didn’t need anything from us. They said what they wanted is from the government. That was why they were using us to call the attention of the government to them and offer them what they really want. But honestly they didn’t maltreat us; all I can remember is when they flogged the men once. From then on, they did no harm to any of us.
They provided medication for those that were wounded and even injections. They gave food and allowed us to pray. They even provided hijab for some of us that didn’t have one for prayers.
We were initially sleeping on the bare ground but they later provided sacks to the vulnerable, then tarpaulin and blankets to more people to use against the cold and rain.
They asked for what I required of medications and provided all for my use. In a nutshell they took care of us, especially me (with pregnancy) and other children.
How many of you, women, were abducted?
We are about 18 and five children—from two to nine years old.
Did they allow you to call your relatives?
Yes, two days after the attack, they asked us to call our families to inform them we are in their captivity, and that we are all alive and healthy.
Who did you call, you and your husband?
My husband is my guardian and he called his father and that was okay for us.
At what time did they decide to release you?
They released me after seven weeks. They didn’t collect a kobo from my relatives. I complained to them that my delivery time was fast approaching and I can’t deliver on my own, I have to undergo an operation. Then they said they will get back to me.
After a few days, when they confirmed that I cannot deliver by myself, they decided to set me free. They even told me that my money cannot free me from them, but that they had pity on me and the situation I’m in and let me go.
What message did they give you to the government?
Their message is for the government to release their children. So they said, the same way they pitied me, the government should also listen to them and free their children and the rest of their people.
Did they tell you when their kids were arrested?
I am not sure
Did they promise to release people in their captivity if government freed their children?
They said our children are also with them and if the government releases their children they will also free ours including some vulnerable among those in their captivity. Thereafter they will negotiate with them to find solutions for the rest.
Almost all media houses in the world said you gave birth while in captivity, where did that story emanate from?
The same way you heard about it; that I gave birth while in captivity that was how I also heard the story.
When is your delivery time?
I’m about to deliver; it can be anytime from now because I am due.
What is your appeal to government on the message they gave and the situation you left the people in captivity?
Among them, there are people with diabetes, high blood pressure and some elderly. And remember you are kept in the forest for a long period of time, even if you are not tormented, it will affect your health. It is not easy.
My appeal to the government is to look into the issue and work to resolve it amicably.
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