Boko Haram militants have slaughtered a group of women in Nigeria they deemed “witches”.
Last week, around 40 women were held in a village near Gwoza town in Borno State on the orders of jihadist commander Ali Guyile whose children suddenly died overnight.
Relatives, residents and a woman who escaped told AFP that the commander had accused the women of causing the children’s deaths through witchcraft.
Mr Guyile, 35, ordered his men to arrest the women from homes known to practice witchcraft, said Talkwe Linbe, one of the accused women.
Linbe said she managed to escape and fled to the regional capital Maiduguri after the killing of 14 women on Thursday.
“He said would investigate our involvement in the deaths of his children and give appropriate punishment if found guilty. On Thursday he ordered 14 of us shot. I was lucky not to be part of it and my boyfriend, among the men guarding us, helped me escape that same night,” the 67-year-old woman said.
Accusations of witchcraft are not uncommon in Nigeria, which is a religiously conservative country almost equally divided between the mostly Muslim north and Christian south.
Many people abhor witchcraft despite it being entrenched in society and a section of the Nigerian criminal code still forbids its practice, and it is punishable by a jail term.
it is not uncommon for people to be branded witches and then brutalised or lynched.
Rights groups condemn the killings and say superstitious beliefs result in the loss of innocent lives.
On Saturday, the day Mr Linbe arrived in Maiduguri, 12 more women were slaughtered accused of being witches, other relatives said.
“I received a call from Gwoza informing me that my mother, two aunts and nine other women were massacred on the orders of Ali Guyile, who accused them of being witches who killed his three children,” Abdullahi Gyya, who lives in Maiduguri told AFP.
He also said he was told of the killing of an initial 14 women on Thursday.
Boko Haram seized Gwoza in July 2014 and despite being retaken by Nigerian troops the following March, the jihadists continue to raid nearby villages.