One of the midwives abducted by Boko Haram in the wake of the attack on the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs camp at Rann, Borno State, Thursday night, Hauwa Mohammed, said in a message via Whatsapp that her parents be informed of her kidnap by the insurgents. “We are under attack in Rann. They are shooting everywhere, please pray for me; please go and tell my parents that I am in trouble.”
In a video message composed in Hausa in the heat of sporadic shooting by the insurgents at the military base they fled amid the shooting, Hauwa, 25, asked her friend to tell her parents that she was being taken away by her abductors.
Running and panting, the victim said: “We are under attack in Rann. They are shooting everywhere, please pray for me; please go and tell my parents that I am in trouble. Please, look for Fatima and tell her they are taking us away.
They have entered here now…” It was learned that at that point, a male voice ordered her to keep quiet and not to move an inch. “That was the last that was heard from Hauwa,” the friend, Fatima said. Boko Haram fighters had invaded Rann, a town in Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno State, on Thursday. It was gathered that the International Committee of Red Cross, ICRC, contracted the nurse to work in Rann for a period of three months. Another friend of the victim, Abdulhameed Algarzali, who is the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper in Maiduguri, said the nurse assumed work two weeks ago.
Algarzali said Hauwa Mohammed told him she was going to spend two weeks in Gamboru-Ngala, headquarters of Ngala Local Government Area of Borno when she visited him the night before the incident. He said family members and friends of Hauwa thought she was working at Gamboru Ngala, and not Rann, where she was abducted by Boko Haram.
He said: “It seems she did not disclose that she was posted to Rann… why she refused to do so is not clear. “I did not believe the story at first because the Hauwa Mohammed I met a day to her journey told me she was going to Gamboru Ngala for just two weeks. It is surprising, therefore, that this happened to her in Rann.
I mean, how did she get there? “It’s possible she did it deliberately to avoid causing unnecessary panic, considering the situation in Rann, or to avoid being stopped by her family. But another possibility is that her employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, providing medical assistance to over 40,000 displaced persons, misinformed her of the true posting.”
The ICRC actually confirmed that two of its midwives were missing, indicating they may have been abducted by the Boko Haram gunmen. But friends and family members of Mohammed also confirmed that after getting her new job, the midwife was flown to Rann in Kala-Balge Local Government Area of Borno State on February 19.
“We celebrated her new job and even joked about her coming back so that we could help her spend her first salary in Maiduguri”, said a close friend who identified herself as Fatima Saeed whom the missing midwife also referred to in her WhatsApp message. Some of her friends said she loved keeping in touch with family and friends, adding that they were worried how she would cope working in a cut-off locality, such as Rann, where there is zero access to telecommunication. They said it was her first major job since graduation, following a stint with Fhi 360 in 2017, a North Carolina, USA-based NGO working in Borno State. “But two days after she left, I received a WhatsApp message from her and I was surprised because I knew there was no network in Rann. “Then she told me that they have an internet Wi-Fi to which they connect in order to chat or send emails,’’ Mrs. Saeed said.
On the day of the attack, it was learned that Ms. Mohammed did not chat with Mrs. Saeed but was, however, having a chat with another friend when the Boko Haram gunmen invaded their camp. Under such an extremely dangerous situation, the terrified Mohammed was still able to use the WhatsApp handle on her phone to alert her friends about the attack on Rann, using the voice message application to send out patches of information while she was hiding at a location she said was within the soldiers’ barracks.
Piecing the different patches of voice messages she managed to send out before Boko Haram gunmen finally spotted her in her hideout, one could conjecture how the attack occurred. In the messages, she informed her friend in Maiduguri that they were under attack and that they had to run to the military base for protection. But her last voice chat indicated that the attackers had stormed the military base where they were taking refuge and she was about to be harmed. The first voice message with gun shots in the background said “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajium (meaning from God we come and unto Him shall we all return), Boko Haram have invaded our camp, they are coming to take us away.”
The second Whatsapp message came in a more panicked voice, saying “Please don’t tell anybody yet, I beg you in the name of God don’t let it out yet, don’t tell Fatima too for now. I am scared (voice broken with tears)…if my parents hear about this now, they will not be happy. Oh God, here they are, are you hearing the gunshots?” The third voice message seemed to be answering a question from the recipient as she said “no, they are still here and they will go with us.”
It also suggests that the gunmen may have been repelled earlier before they regrouped and returned for a second phase of the attack; and that Hauwa and other aid workers had to leave their camp and flee into the military base for refuge. ‘’Please go and tell my parents they don’t know the situation that their daughter is in now.
For God’s sake, go and tell them. Call Fatima to go and meet my parents, but she shouldn’t tell them now. “We are now in the barracks and the gunmen have come back again. Oh inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun…” The fourth voice message was the most disturbing, as voices of men were heard alongside heavy gunshots, and clanking of metal sheets as Hauwa Mohammed announced in hushed voice that “they (Boko Haram) have entered where I am now; please don’t tell anyone yet, I beg you in the name of God.”
It was learned that the fifth voice message was only for about a second as it ended with Hauwa Mohammed screaming and calling on the name of God.
“Inna lillahi wa inna…” Following the attack, the ICRC had since announced the withdrawal all its aid workers from Rann, vowing not to send them unless the Federal Government provided adequate security for them. Aside from the two midwives taken away by the insurgents, no fewer than four soldiers, four policemen and three humanitarian aid workers were killed in the attack.