No fewer than 60 men who said they were captured by the Boko Haram terrorist group and forced to fight have surrendered to authorities in northern Cameroon.
According to reports, after spending two years with Boko Haram, the men decided to flee with their families and hand themselves in, according to several men who had surrendered and spoke to journalists at a ceremony in the town of Mozogo on Friday.
A total of nearly 400 people originally from Cameroon – 58 men, 86 women and 244 children – said they had been taken hostage by Boko Haram fighters during attacks on their villages and taken to Nigeria, where they were forced to join the jihadist group.
The men told reporters they had fought for Boko Haram and were laying down their arms of their own will. They surrendered at the border with Nigeria to a village vigilante group formed to combat the jihadists. The vigilantes then handed them over to the authorities.
Head of the group, Ousmane Kouila, said they had been out on patrol in the border area when they met the fleeing Boko Haram fighters. â€œThey said they were returning, and that they were surrendering,â€ he said.
The local governor went to meet them and ordered them to be moved away from the border to avoid any reprisals by Boko Haram.
â€œWe are counting on them to also convince others who are hesitating (to surrender) and there are a lot of them they tell us,â€ said governor of the Far North region, Midjiyawa Bakari. Authorities would provide the escapees with psychological help, he said.
â€œThey have been through brainwashing, perhaps also having taken an oath on the Koran or made a blood pact,â€ the governor said, adding they needed help with â€œall they must have enduredâ€ in the hands of Boko Haram.