Rann: Touching story of woman who broke news of Boko Haram attack, her abduction

Hauwa, the aid worker.

Hauwa Mohammed, a 25-year-old midwife who sent out a WhatsApp voice message from Rann that Boko Haram had invaded their camp was not lucky to escape the attack that officially claimed the lives of at least 11 persons.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed that two of its midwives were missing, indicating they may have been abducted by the Boko Haram gunmen.

Nearly 72 hours after the Thursday l attack, the Nigerian government has not officially provided details of the attack which many fear may have claimed more lives than reported.

The UN said 11 persons, including three UN aid workers, were killed in the attack. Eight of the 11 are Nigerian security officials including four soldiers, international agencies have said. The Nigerian military is yet to officially announce the casualty.

Also, no government official or security agency has explained how the attack took place and why Boko Haram fighters had easy access to Rann.

The most that has been revealed by the Nigerian military in Borno State was an anonymous confirmation by a senior soldier who simply said “there were casualties on both sides, including civilians there; the details are not clear for now”. 

But a careful analysis of Hauwa’s WhatsApp messages may explain how the attack took place.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Ms. Mohammed is a trained midwife recently employment by ICRC and posted to Rann mid-February.

Her friends and family members 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 woman also referred to in her WhatsApp message. 

Some of Ms. Mohammed’s friends said she loves keeping in touch with family and friends. They said they were worried how she would cope working in a cut-off locality like Rann where there is zero access to telecommunication. 

It was her first major job since her 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,” said Mrs. Saeed.

“Then she told me that they have an internet Wifi to which they connect in order to chat or send emails”.

On the day of the attack, Ms. Mohammed did not chat with her Mrs. Saeed. She was, however, having a chat with another friend when the Boko Haram gunmen invaded their camp.

Under such an extremely dangerous situation, the terrified Hauwa 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 says; “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.

Being a young woman and very much aware of the latest abduction of girls in Dapchi, Ms. Mohammed believed the worst that could happen to her may not be death, but Boko Haram taking her and other females away.

The second Whatsapp message came in a more panicked voice. “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 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, voices of men were heard alongside heavy gunshots, and clanking of metal sheets as Hauwa announced in hushed voice that “There they are, Boko Haram have entered where I am now; please don’t tell anyone yet, I beg you in the name of God.”

The fifth voice message was only for about a second as it ended with Hauwa screaming and calling on the name of God. “Inna lillahi wa inna….”.

The recipient of the messages said he could not reach her afterwards.

But her message gave at least a hazy scenario of how the attack happened. 

The gunmen invaded their camp in Rann and during the attack, most of the aid workers fled into the military post which they called barrack to take refuge. After a moment of exchange, the military seemed to have repelled the attack. 

But after a while, the gunmen returned, as Hauwa said in her third voice message, “Boko Haram gunmen have returned” to attack the military post.

UN’s Humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, called on Nigerian authorities “to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice and account.”

ICRC’s Communication Coordinator, Aleksandra Matijevic Mosimann, in a statement said his organisation was very much concerned about the safety of Hauwa and another midwife who they suspected have been abducted by Boko Haram.

“At present we remain concerned about the safety of  two midwives working in a Ministry of Health clinic in Rann, supported by the ICRC, whose whereabouts we don’t know yet. 

“We would like to express our sincere condolences to the families of all persons killed or injured in the attack, including the families of the humanitarian workers tragically killed or injured in Rann”. 

The UN, after the attack, announced the withdrawal of all aid workers from Rann.

President Muhammadu Buhari has also condemned the attack and the abduction of the aid workers. He, however, failed to provide any further details of the attack or casualty.


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