In the gloom of a hilltop cave in Nigeria where she was held captive, Hajja had a knife pressed to her throat by a man who gave her a choice – convert to Islam or die.
Two gunmen from Boko Haram had seized the Christian teenager in July as she picked corn near her village in the Gwoza hills, a remote part of northeastern Nigeria where a six-month-old government offensive is struggling to contain an insurgency by the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group.
In a new development, Boko Haram is abducting Christian women whom it converts to Islam on pain of death and then forces into "marriage" with fighters — a tactic that recalls Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army in the jungles of Uganda.
The three months Hajja spent as the slave of a 14-strong guerrilla unit, cooking and cleaning for them before she escaped, give a rare glimpse into how the Islamists have changed tack in the face of Nigerian military pressure.
"I can't sleep when I think of being there," the 19-year-old told Reuters, recounting forced mountain marches, rebel intelligence gathering – and watching her captors slit the throats of prisoners Hajja had helped lure into a trap.
Written By: Thomson Reuters
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