Girls, women rescued from Boko Haram need psychological care

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Nigerian Rescue Highlights Scope of Boko Haram Kidnappings

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Some of the nearly 300 girls and women freed by Nigeria's military from the forest stronghold of Boko Haram were so transformed by their captivity that they opened fire on their rescuers, and experts said Wednesday they would need intensive psychological treatment.

The military was flying in medical and intelligence teams to evaluate the former captives, many of whom were severely traumatized, said army spokesman Col. Sani Usman.

He said earlier that none of the schoolgirls kidnapped from the northeastern town of Chibok a year ago appeared to be among the 200 girls and 93 women rescued Tuesday. But on Wednesday he said further screening was needed before their identities could be determined.

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Girls, women rescued from Boko Haram need psychological care
Children rescued by Nigeria soldiers from captivity from Islamist extremists at Sambisa forest arrive at a camp in Yola, Nigeria, Saturday May. 2, 2015. The first group of nearly 300 Nigerian girls and women released from captivity by Boko Haram were brought by the military to the safety of a refugee camp in the country's northeast Saturday evening. More than 677 females have been released this week according to official reports, as the Nigerian military continues its campaign to push the Islamic extremists out of their last remaining strongholds in the Sambisa Forest. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Women and children rescued by Nigeria soldiers from Boko Haram extremists at Sambisa forest arrive at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria Saturday, May. 2, 2015. More than 677 girls and women have been released this week, as the Nigerian military continues its campaign to push the Islamic extremists out their last remaining strongholds in the Sambisa Forest. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Women and children rescued by Nigerian soldiers from Boko Haram extremists at Sambisa Forest arrive at a refugee camp by a truck in Yola, Nigeria Saturday, May 2, 2015. They were among a group of 275 people rescued from the Islamic extremists, the first to arrive at the refugee camp Saturday after a three-day journey to safety. The Nigerian military said it has rescued more than 677 girls and women and destroyed more than a dozen insurgent camps in the past week. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
A doctor attends to a malnourished child at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria Sunday, May 3, 2015, after being rescued from captivity by Boko Haram fighters. Their faces were gaunt with signs of malnutrition but the girls are alive and free, among a group of 275 children and women rescued by the Nigerian military, and the first to arrive at a refugee camp Saturday after a three-day journey to safety. They came from the Sambisa Forest, thought to be the last stronghold of the Islamic extremists, where the Nigerian military said it has rescued more than 677 girls and women and destroyed more than a dozen insurgent camps in the past week. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Fulani Women balance their wares on their head as they walk on the dirt road past a camp were women and children rescued by Nigerian soldiers from Boko Haram extremists at Sambisa Forest have taken refuge in Yola, Nigeria Monday, May 4, 2015. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Salamatu Bulama, a lady who claims that Islamist exremists stoned her and others before she was rescued by Nigerian soldiers, as she talks to the media sitting in a clinic at a camp in Yola, Nigeria Sunday, May 3, 2015. Boko Haram fighters stoned some of their captives to death as Nigeria's military approached to rescue the women, some survivors told The Associated Press on Sunday, as some of the released women captives told tragic stories about their time in captivity, for some after more than a year in the hands of Nigeria's homegrown Islamic extremists. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Women and children rescued by Nigerian soldiers from Boko Haram extremists at Sambisa Forest wait for treatment at at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria Monday, May 4, 2015. Even with the crackle of gunfire signaling rescuers were near, the horrors did not end: Boko Haram fighters stoned captives to death, some girls and women were crushed by an armored car and three died when a land mine exploded as they walked to freedom. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Women and children who were rescued by Nigerian soldiers from Boko Haram extremists at Sambisa Forest register their names upon their arrival at a refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria, Saturday May 2, 2015. They were among a group of 275 people rescued from the Islamic extremists, the first to arrive at the refugee camp Saturday after a three-day journey to safety. Nigerian military said it has rescued more than 677 girls and women and destroyed more than a dozen insurgent camps in the past week. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Lami Musa, 27-year-old who says her husband was killed before she was abducted by Islamist extremists, cradles her 5-day-old baby girl at a refugee camp clinic after she and others were rescued by Nigerian soldiers from Sambisa Forest, Yola, Nigeria Monday, May 4, 2015. Even with the crackle of gunfire signaling rescuers were near, the horrors did not end: Boko Haram fighters stoned captives to death, some girls and women were crushed by an armored car and three died when a land mine exploded as they walked to freedom. Through tears, smiles and eyes filled with pain, the survivors of months in the hands of the Islamic extremists told their tragic stories to The Associated Press on Sunday, their first day out of the war zone. "We just have to give praise to God that we are alive, those of us who have survived," said 27-year-old Lami Musa. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Some parents of kidnapped girls from the government secondary school in Chibok, who were kidnapped a year ago, attend a protest in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, as some 219 girls remain missing on the first anniversary of the kidnapping by Islamic extremists. President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said Tuesday that "We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown," Buhari said in a statement. "As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them." (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Some parents of kidnapped girls from the government secondary school in Chibok, who were kidnapped a year ago, attend a protest in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 14, 2015, as some 219 girls remain missing on the first anniversary of the kidnapping by Islamic extremists. President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said Tuesday that "We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown," Buhari said in a statement. "As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them." (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Young girls known as Chibok Ambassadors, demonstrate in support of the girls kidnapped from the government secondary school in Chibok, a year ago, in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Never to be forgotten. The new slogan adopted Tuesday is a sad concession that many believe few of the Chibok girls kidnapped one year ago by Islamic extremists will ever find their way home. On the first anniversary of the day 276 schoolgirls were snatched in the middle of the night as they prepared to write science exams at their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said he cannot promise to find the 219 who are still missing. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
People march during a silent protest calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school in Chibok, who were abducted a year ago, in Abuja, Nigeria, Monday, April 13, 2015. Nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok were abducted in a mass kidnapping on the night of April 14-15. Dozens escaped on their own but 219 remain missing. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Protesters holds up placards demanding help from the Nigerian government to find the some 219 girls who remain missing on the first anniversary of the kidnapping by Islamic extremists, during a demonstration outside the Nigerian High Commission in London, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. April 14th marks the one year anniversary of the abduction from their school in Chibok, Nigeria, but Nigeria's President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said Tuesday that "We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown." (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
People march on a street during a silent protest calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school in Chibok, who were kidnapped a year ago, in Abuja, Nigeria, Monday, April 13, 2015. Nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok were abducted in a mass kidnapping on the night of April 14-15. Dozens escaped on their own but 219 remain missing. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
FILE - In this file photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, people demonstrate calling on the Nigerian government to rescue girls taken from a secondary school in Chibok region, in the city of Abuja, Nigeria . Days after Nigeria's military raised hopes by announcing Islamic extremists have agreed to a cease-fire, Boko Haram is still fighting and there is no word about 219 schoolgirls held hostage for six months. Officials had said talks with Nigeria's Islamic extremist rebels would resume in neighboring Chad this week, but there was no confirmation that negotiations had resumed by Wednesday. (AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga File)
Young girls known as Chibok Ambassadors, carry placards bearing the names of the girls kidnapped from the government secondary school in Chibok, a year ago, during a demonstration, in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Never to be forgotten. The new slogan adopted Tuesday is a sad concession that many believe few of the Chibok girls kidnapped one year ago by Islamic extremists will ever find their way home. On the first anniversary of the day 276 schoolgirls were snatched in the middle of the night as they prepared to write science exams at their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said he cannot promise to find the 219 who are still missing. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
In this photo taken Wednesday, April 8, 2015, soldiers escort Hassan Usman, a forced laborer for Boko Haram who had his hand amputated by the Islamic extremists for allegedly stealing fuel in Gwoza, Nigeria, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Each day brings new reports of atrocities, with mass graves being discovered in towns seized back from the militants who had set up a so-called “Islamic caliphate” across a great swath of northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram's nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed thousands — a reported 10,000 just last year — and forced more than 1.5 million from their homes. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)
In this photo taken Wednesday, April 8, 2015, Nigerian soldiers stand guard in front of the burned out palace of the Emir of Gwoza, in Gwoza, Nigeria, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Each day brings new reports of atrocities, with mass graves being discovered in towns seized back from the militants who had set up a so-called “Islamic caliphate” across a great swath of northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram's nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed thousands — a reported 10,000 just last year — and forced more than 1.5 million from their homes. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)
In this photo taken Wednesday, April 8, 2015, Nigerian Soldiers man a check point in Gwoza, Nigeria, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Each day brings new reports of atrocities, with mass graves being discovered in towns seized back from the militants who had set up a so-called “Islamic caliphate” across a great swath of northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram's nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed thousands — a reported 10,000 just last year — and forced more than 1.5 million from their homes. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)
In this photo taken Wednesday, April 8, 2015, Nigerian soldiers man a check point in Gwoza, Nigeria, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Each day brings new reports of atrocities, with mass graves being discovered in towns seized back from the militants who had set up a so-called “Islamic caliphate” across a great swath of northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram's nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed thousands — a reported 10,000 just last year — and forced more than 1.5 million from their homes. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)
In this photo taken Wednesday, April 8, 2015, a Woman cries as she learns that her relatives were killed by Boko Haram in Gwoza, Nigeria, a town newly liberated from Boko Haram. Each day brings new reports of atrocities, with mass graves being discovered in towns seized back from the militants who had set up a so-called “Islamic caliphate” across a great swath of northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram's nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed thousands — a reported 10,000 just last year — and forced more than 1.5 million from their homes. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi)
Parents of missing Chibok schoolgirls carry placards on April 14, 2015 to protest the delay in rescuing their daughters as they gather to mark the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 219 schoolgirls by Boko Haram Islamists in the northeastern Nigerian city of Chibok in Borno State. But as the teenagers entered their second year of captivity at the hands of the Islamist militants, Nigeria's incoming president said he could give no guarantees about their safe return. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Parents of missing Chibok schoolgirls gather on April 14, 2015 to mark the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 219 schoolgirls by Boko Haram Islamists in the northeastern Nigerian city of Chibok in Borno State. But as the teenagers entered their second year of captivity at the hands of the Islamist militants, Nigeria's incoming president said he could give no guarantees about their safe return. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Parents of missing Chibok schoolgirls gather on April 14, 2015 to mark the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 219 schoolgirls by Boko Haram Islamists in the northeastern Nigerian city of Chibok in Borno State. But as the teenagers entered their second year of captivity at the hands of the Islamist militants, Nigeria's incoming president said he could give no guarantees about their safe return. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
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"The processing is continuing, it involves a lot of things because most of them are traumatized and you have got to put them in a psychological frame of mind to extract information from them," Usman said.

A counselor who has treated other women freed from Boko Haram captivity said some had become indoctrinated into believing the group's Islamic extremist ideology, while others had established strong emotional attachments to militants they had been forced to marry.

Some of the about 90 women and girls freed by the army four months ago in Yobe state, for example, had upset their community on their return by maintaining that the militants were good people who had treated them well, said the counselor, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he has been targeted by the militants in the past.

"The trauma suffered by the (abducted) women and girls is truly horrific," said Amnesty International's Africa director for research and advocacy, Netsanet Belay. "Some have been repeatedly raped, sold into sexual slavery or indoctrinated and even forced to fight for Boko Haram."

That is what appeared to have happened this week when the Nigerian military said troops rescued the women and girls while destroying four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest.

Boko Haram used some of the women as armed human shields, a first line of defense who opened fire as the troops approached, according to an intelligence officer and a soldier who were in Sambisa during the rescue. The soldiers managed to subdue the women and round them up, said the men, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive issue with the media.

No one knows how many captives are in the hands of the Islamic extremists, who have carried out a campaign of killings and kidnappings that has seen thousands of girls, women and young men seized to be used as sex slaves and fighters. Amnesty International said earlier this month that at least 2,000 women and girls have been taken by Boko Haram since the start of 2014.

Among them are the nearly 300 girls abducted from their school in Chibok on April 14, 2014. Dozens escaped as they were taken in trucks into the Sambisa forest, but 219 remain missing.

The plight of the schoolgirls, who have become known as "the Chibok girls," aroused international outrage and a campaign for their release under the hashtag (hash)BringBackOurGirls. Their kidnapping brought Boko Haram, whose nickname means "Western education is forbidden" in the local Hausa language, to the world's attention, with even U.S. first lady Michelle Obama becoming involved as she tweeted a photograph of herself holding the campaign sign.

Nigerian military and counter-insurgency spokesmen have said they have information indicating at least some of the Chibok girls still are being held in the Sambisa Forest.

Usman said operations were continuing Wednesday, as the military evacuated the women and girls freed a day earlier and took them to an undisclosed location.

"Sambisa Forest is a large expanse of land, so what we were able to get is four out of several terrorist camps in the forest," he said of the national game reserve that sprawls over 60,000 square kilometers (23,170 square miles).

Some kidnapping victims who have escaped from Boko Haram have been detained for weeks for security screenings, and Amnesty International called on authorities "to ensure that the trauma of those `rescued' is not exacerbated by lengthy security screening in detention."

"Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to ensure that their physical and psychological well-being is paramount," the group said in a statement.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now the U.N. special envoy for global education, welcomed the rescue of the girls and women but called Wednesday for the immediate release of all abducted girls.

"It is time to end the nightmare. For a year, families have not known whether their daughters are dead or alive, married off, sold off or violated as a result of their captivity," Brown said. "We want all girls released."

Nigeria's military largely stood by last year as Boko Haram took over dozens of towns and declared a large swath of northeastern Borno state an Islamic caliphate.

That changed when a multinational offensive led by Chad began at the end of January. Now, Nigeria's military says it has driven the Islamic extremists out of all towns with help from troops from Chad and Niger, while Cameroonian soldiers have been guarding their borders to prevent the militants from escaping.

A month ago the Nigerian military began pounding the Sambisa Forest in air raids, an assault they said earlier they had been avoiding for fear of killing kidnapped women and girls, or inciting their captors to kill them.

Boko Haram continues to attack isolated communities. The government of neighboring Niger said a Boko Haram attack on Karamga island in Lake Chad over the weekend killed 156 militants, 46 soldiers and 28 civilians.

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