Nigerian Troops Accused of Rape in War Zone, Amnesty Says

(Bloomberg) -- Women freed from the captivity of Boko Haram Islamist militants in northeastern Nigeria have accused soldiers of raping them and demanding sex in exchange for food, Amnesty International said.

Women and girls living in camps for displaced people told the London-based human-rights group that soldiers and pro-government vigilantes have taken advantage of food shortages to sexually exploit them, Amnesty said in a report released Thursday. Some women living in camps in the town of Dikwa said last year that they hadn’t received any food assistance and were prevented from leaving their settlements.

“It is absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military,” Osai Ojigho, Amnesty’s Nigeria director, said in an emailed statement. “Sex in these highly coercive circumstances is always rape, even when physical force is not used.”

Military spokesman John Agim denied the new allegations, saying that soldiers’ access to the camps was restricted after the first reports of sexual exploitation came out in 2015. Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement Thursday that some soldiers had been dismissed or demoted over cases of abuse and there have been convictions in civil courts.

Allegations of human-rights violations by the army prompted the government in August to set up an investigative panel, but its findings haven’t been made public. New York-based Human Rights Watch reported in 2016 allegations of sexual exploitation of women and girls living in camps for displaced people.

Boko Haram has waged a nine-year war to impose its version of Islamic law in Africa’s most populous country, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and forcing millions to flee their homes.

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