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Freed From Boko Haram, Hostages Now Held By Nigeria's Military


It had seemed that the ordeal of hundreds of hostages held by Boko Haram in Nigeria ended with their rescue last month. The women and children had been kidnapped from their villages. When they were freed by Nigeria's military, they were brought to a refugee camp. Now they appear to be prisoners again - of the military. For more we've reached AP's Michelle Faul in Lagos.

MICHELLE FAUL: What we were told was that soldiers came to the refugee camp on Tuesday afternoon. The women, girls and mainly children were piled into buses, ferried to the airport and flown off in a military plane. And the sources that we spoke to, both at the camp and in military intelligence, say that there are suspicions that some of the girls and women either are Boko Haram members or could have been communicating with Boko Haram. One of the camp officials we spoke to said that these fears had been mentioned during trauma counseling sessions, which is a little disturbing because one would imagine that such sessions are confidential. So it's all very murky.

MONTAGNE: One thing about this - we have heard so much about these women and young girls being taken by Boko Haram to be brides. Does that figure into this, the idea that they've been with them long enough to have been absorbed, in a sense, into the group?

FAUL: I have spoken with a doctor who was leading some of the trauma counseling of people who have been captured by Boko Haram. And what he said to me was that there have indeed been cases of girls and women who, held for months, seem to have absorbed some of the extremist ideology of their captives or, he said, in some cases it might be what they call Stockholm syndrome, where a hostage begins to identify with the people who are holding him or her. But what I don't understand is how you then take an entire group - this group, this particular group - 67 women and girls, the rest of the 275 are children, and most of them are under 5.

MONTAGNE: What could happen next for these former hostages, now apparent prisoners?

FAUL: It is not clear. I have to say that Nigeria's military does not have good record when it comes to treatment of detainees.

MONTAGNE: So effectively, there's just no way to know at this moment.

FAUL: Well, I'm looking at some local newspaper reports right now which are suggesting that the women and girls have been taken away from the camp for their own safety. And these local reports are saying that this was done by the DSS - this is Department of State Security. That is not the information we have. And they were safe in that camp. The camp is directly opposite a military base. So I'm skeptical of reports that would suggest that they have been taken away for their own safety. But that is what we're seeing coming in. We have had no response to our requests for comment from Nigeria's military about why this happened, where these women, girls and children are and what is happening to them.

MONTAGNE: Michelle, thanks very much.

FAUL: You're most welcome.

MONTAGNE: Michelle Faul is Nigeria bureau chief for the AP. She spoke with us from Lagos. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.