In Nigeria, a nation with a strict moral code that is split almost evenly between its predominantly Muslim north and Christian south, accusations of witchcraft are not unheard of.
Security forces, Boko Haram, and its adversary, the violent Islamic State West Africa Province group, are engaged in a struggle that has so far claimed more than 40,000 lives in north-eastern Nigeria.
According to family members and a woman who managed to flee, over 40 women were imprisoned last week in a village outside of Gwoza on the instructions of Boko Haram commander Ali Guyile, whose children mysteriously passed away over night.
They said in interviews conducted on Sunday and Monday that the commander had accused the women of employing witchcraft to bring about the deaths of the children.
According to Talkwe Linbe, one of the accused women, Guyile, a 35-year-old commander, ordered his soldiers to arrest the ladies from homes where witchcraft was reportedly practised.
Linbe claimed that after 14 ladies were killed on Thursday, she was able to flee and made her way to the provincial capital Maiduguri (Nov 10).
She said, “He (Guyile) said he would look into our role in his children’s deaths.
He gave the order to kill 14 of us on Thursday. I was fortunate to not be one of them.
Her affiliation with Boko Haram was unclear, although terrorists frequently coerce locals in areas under their control to engage in employment or romantic interactions.
Although the questioned family and locals did not specifically state how the women perished, the Hausa phrase they used typically refers to militants cutting victims’ throats.
Although they emphasised that the village was extremely isolated, Nigeria’s security sources claimed they were aware of the reports and were looking into them.
A government representative for Borno state said they were checking.
Other relatives claimed that 12 more women were murdered on Saturday, the day Linbe arrived in Maiduguri, on the grounds that they were witches.
Abdullahi Gyya, a resident of Maiduguri, stated, “I received a call from Gwoza that my mother, two aunts, and nine other ladies were slain yesterday (Saturday) on the instructions of Ali Guyile, who accused them of being witches.
Additionally, he claimed that on Thursday, a total of 14 ladies were killed.
Tijjani Usman, a Maiduguri resident who is originally from Gwoza, claimed that calls he received from family members there confirmed Linbe and Gyya’s accounts.
Gwoza was captured by Boko Haram in July 2014. Even though Nigerian military took it back the following March, the gang still raids adjacent towns.