By Olarewaju Kola
Boko Haram militants are detaining dozens of women in the northeastern Gwoza town which the group seized last year, an escapee has said after fleeing the group's grip.
"There are many women and ladies in hundreds kept by Boko Haram in some selected houses in Gwoza," Mairo Mohammed, a woman who escaped from the town, told reporters late Tuesday in Maiduguri, provincial capital of Borno State.
"We've been in these houses for months, and sometimes they swap us," she added.
Boko Haram militants seized Gwoza, a relatively large Borno community on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, in August 2014 and declared a self-styled "Islamic caliphate" in the area.
Several residents fled the town to neighboring communities which were later raided by the insurgents while scores have been trapped in the town, situated about 187 kilometers to Maiduguri.
Mohammed told journalists that she fled with other women last week when a bomb explosion broke the wall of the house where they were detained.
"There was a confusion in the immediate wake of the blast in the house where Boko Haram kept us. Two women died in the blast and the wall broke," she explained.
"Some of us fled into the bush and we walked several miles to get to a road where somebody assisted us to Yola [a neighboring town]," she added.
She said some local residents assisted the escapees in Yola as they were taken to hospital for medical treatment. "We spent about five days in the hospital. The man who took us there gave us money and put us in vehicles going to different towns," she recounted.
Mohammed also revealed that the insurgents beheaded about 75 men days before she fled Gwoza, citing remarks by Boko Haram militants guarding the houses where they were detained.
An Anadolu Agency correspondent in Maiduguri said a relative of the escapee facilitated the interview to reveal that other women are still held by Boko Haram in Gwoza.
A security source confirmed to AA that Boko Haram has been killing "many civilians" in Gwoza since last week. "Such barbaric activity by Boko Haram has been going on in Gwoza for more than a week now," the source told AA, requesting anonymity.
He went on to say that the insurgents were desperate and "will soon be flushed out of the town."
Nigerian army said last week its forces had liberated at least 15 counties and many communities except Gwoza Local Government, a stronghold of Boko Haram.
Nigeria is fighting a six-year Boko Haram insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced over one million people from the northeastern region, where the militants have been the most ruthless.
In mid-2014, the group declared a self-styled "Islamic caliphate" in areas seized in the northeastern Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
All but two major local government areas hitherto controlled by the militants have been liberated in the operations, which have involved troops from neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.