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Diary of a repentant Boko Haram commander

By Olatunji Saliu ABUJA (Xinhua) -- Looking back at the crimes he executed against humanity, Auwal Ismaaela, a self-confessed top commander of the Nigeria-based terror group Boko Haram, felt he would likely be living the rest of his life regretting the atrocities he and other fighters committed.

Although he claimed to have repented now, and willfully surrendered to the Nigerian military recently, he is, no doubt, gutted by his own past.

Ismaaela threw in the towel as government troops intensified efforts to smoke out remnants of the terror group in Nigeria.

His submission to the military was promptly followed by a confession in which the terror group commander said he played a major role in the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, a Christian-dominated town in the northeastern state of Borno in April 2014.

“It is unfortunate that I was brainwashed and misled, not only on some abductions but in the killings of my own people that were innocent,” Ismaaela told investigators.

“I wholeheartedly regret my actions,” he said, noting his sins were too many.

Among his many regrets, he would live the rest of his life without a right leg and a partially burned body—the vestiges of a senseless fight against his country and compatriots.

Amid many acts of bloodletting on innocent people and destruction of properties across the length and breadth of Nigeria’s northeast, Ismaaela and another repentant Boko Haram fighter named Abu Hafsat led the killing of youths and other school children in Madagali area of Adamawa State, also in the northeast region.

Between 2014 and 2015, he commanded many terror operations which led to the invasion of almost a dozen towns across Nigeria’s northeast region.

Even his kinsmen were not spared the violence. In 2014, Ismaaela led his cohorts to his homestead of Madagali, where they killed some students and youths at the Central Secondary School in Sabon Gari area of the town.

“In one of the operations, I abducted my wife named Maryam,” the repented terrorist said.

Maryam later bore him two kids in Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram’s largest training camp in Borno State.

Before the terrorists were chased out of Sambisa Forest, the place was a “land of horror,” Ismaaela recalled.

“Women were being raped, sometimes publicly. Children died from malnutrition and diseases as the living condition became harsher. As there was no food in the camp, people died every day because of hunger,” he said.

Despite losing his right leg in a gunfight with troops in Konduga, another frequently attacked area in Borno State, Ismaaela did not stop fighting for Boko Haram.

He said Boko Haram’s kingpin, Abubakar Shekau, gave him a tricycle with which he continued to use for various operations before he eventually surrendered.

Giving many reasons for his decision to voluntarily surrender to the Nigerian troops, Ismaaela had since realized, also, that the sermons, barbaric indoctrination and atrocities being committed in all the Boko Haram camps “were misleading.”

“I willingly surrendered to the military because I was tired of the senseless killing and fight. I realized that our people have resort to stealing and all sort of atrocity contrary to the teaching and practice of Islam,” he added.

Ismaaela, currently held in a military detention center in the northeast region, has vowed to cooperate with the Nigerian Military with useful information on locations and hideouts of other top commanders of the ruthless Boko Haram group.

His plea is being considered by Nigerian authorities.

More than 100 Boko Haram members and some commanders had in the recent past surrendered to the military, knowing full well that their actions had become inimical to the overall interest and well-being of the nation and the surrounding countries of Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.

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