NIGERA (AFP) – Humaira Mustapha made no effort to wipe away the tears rolling down her cheeks, as she spoke about her two kidnapped daughters.
“Whenever I think about my daughters I’m filled with indescribable grief,” Ms Mustapha told AFP.
Seated against the plastered mud wall of her bare sitting room, her tears left damp spots on her navy blue hijab (Islamic veil).
Hafsa and Aisha, 14 and 13 respectively, were among the 317 schoolgirls abducted by gunmen from their hostels in an all-girls boarding school in the Zamfara state’s remote village of Jangebe.
“Whenever I serve food to their younger sister, tears keep flowing from my eyes because I keep thinking about the hunger and thirst they are going through,” said the 30-year-old mother of three.
But she only serves her daughter.
“I can’t eat since the abduction,” she said.
“I’m appealing to the governor to do everything to rescue our daughters who are facing real danger to their lives,” Ms Mustapha added.
“As a mother, my anguish is crushing me.”
Villagers say more than 100 gunmen in military uniforms invaded the village early Friday morning.
They fired their weapons incessantly, challenging male residents to come out for a fight. No one dared.
Mukhtar Rabiu, another parent, said the gunmen then headed to the school’s hostel for the sleeping students, forcing them to trek into the bush.
Rabiu’s daughter Shamsiyya was one of around 50 schoolgirls who managed to escape.
“They came into the school around 1:00 am and went into dormitories hurling insults at us, calling on us to come out while firing into the air,” she said told AFP from her home in the village.
“They wore military uniforms,” the 13-year-old added.
“I hid under the bed until they were gone after mustering the students they could get hold of.
“Some of us hid inside toilets”, she added, from behind a milk-coloured veil.
“Every time I think about my colleagues I feel depressed. I’m lonely and have been praying for their safe return” she added.
On the streets of the quiet village, residents carried on with their lives, suppressing their anxiety.
The school, located on the edge of the village, lies virtually deserted.
The only sounds are the birds in the trees scattered around the school compound, and the odd bleat from goats there.
The school’s vice principal and a security guard manning the entrance are the only people still present.
Iron beds, footwear, mattresses, and abandoned clothing litter dormitories from where the schoolgirls were abducted.
Boxes, buckets full of water, and plastic kettles are scattered on the hostels’ dusty floor.
Classroom chairs are empty, dozens of computers sit idle on desks and books gather dust on the shelves.
“It would have been better if my two daughters had died and I buried them – knowing that Allah who gave them to me took them – than having them taken away by bandits,” said Abubakar Abdurrahman Zaki.
His two daughters were among those abducted.
This latest raid came a week after Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle announced an amnesty for repentant bandits blamed for a string of abductions and for deadly raids on local villages.
“No one knows the condition of the girls, which worries everybody,” said one local, Bello Gidan-Ruwa.
“The government said they are making efforts to rescue the girls but their efforts are not good enough until our girls are safely back,” he added.
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