Can you imagine the outcry if a Christian group was kidnapping and forcefully converting Muslim women? asks Weasel Zippers...
(Reuters) – 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.
Nigerian security officials say the Islamists have pulled back after army assaults since May on their bases on the semi-desert plain and are now sheltering in the Mandara mountains, along the Cameroon border around the city of Gwoza. From the hills they have been launching increasingly deadly attacks.
The rugged mountain terrain – as fellow al Qaeda allies found in Afghanistan - has proven an advantageous base for a movement that once styled itself the “Nigerian Taliban” and sees all non-Muslims as infidels who must convert or be killed.