The military authorities have taken the 293 women and girls rescued by the Special Forces during a raid on the dreaded Sambisa Forest to the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, Maiduguri, Borno State. An intelligence officer, who made this known to PUNCH on Wednesday [April 29], also said the women and girls were undergoing a series of tests, including pregnancy and HIV in the hospital.
The officer also said that seven of the girls had gunshot injuries which were being treated by the medical officials of the UMTH. Findings indicated that out of the 293 ladies, 200 were aged between 13 and 18, the age brackets of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents on April 14, 2014.
When PUNCH contacted the Director, Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris. Olukolade, to confirm the officer’s information on the rescued females, he said, “We will talk about it when we are through; we are busy moving them off the line of duty for a thorough screening. The military would do everything to take care of them and make them feel not traumatised.”
PUNCH’s source explained that the military would on Thursday (today, April 30) commence a holistic investigation of the identities of the girls and women after the tests and treatment. Another officer told PUNCH that the DHQ was being careful with saying who the women and girls were to avoid mistakes. He said, “This is a sensitive matter that has to be handled with serious caution. You cannot say before the commencement of the investigation that they are the Chibok girls or not.
“Another thing is that you cannot start asking them if they are from Chibok because of the harrowing experiences or trauma they have gone through. Clearly, it would be too early for anybody to say that Chibok girls are among them or not; they are under custody; they went through trauma and we want them to have some relief. Those with medical requirements are being treated.
“But the military is very careful. There is the need to ascertain their true identities. There would be individual interrogation of each of those rescued, to ascertain their link with the sect.”
However, the Borno State Government said on Wednesday that most of the ladies were from Bumsiri, a village in Damboa Local Government Area of the state. The state’s Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Bulama, told journalists in Maiduguri that, “The girls and women rescued are our daughters just like the Chibok girls. We have to commend the military for liberating them, hoping that the rest will equally be liberated.
“Though everyone had thought they were the Chibok girls, but we should not lose sight that they are as important as the Chibok girls. “At the moment, we are looking forward to the time the 293 women/girls would be handed over to us so that we can begin the process of rehabilitating and reintegrating them into the society.”