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CNN exclusive: Nigerian schoolgirl describes escape from Boko Haram

By Nima Elbagir and Lillian Leposo, CNN
updated 9:18 AM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Villagers say they were warned that attackers were coming, but police did nothing
  • NEW: "It's like they were coming for a shopping trip," one witness tells CNN
  • NEW: CNN team describes difficult trip to village where girls were taken
  • "We would rather die than go," girl who escaped tells CNN

Editor's note: CNN's Nima Elbagir, Lillian Leposo and Nick Migwe made the dangerous journey to Chibok, Nigeria, to gather firsthand accounts of the abduction of the schoolgirls -- and how people in the northeastern town are still living in fear.

Chibok, Nigeria (CNN) -- The terrifying news began to spread before the gun-wielding Islamist militants made it into Chibok last month. Villagers began to receive cell phone calls that the feared extremist group Boko Haram was on the way.

No one knew what the attack would entail, that it would mean hundreds of schoolgirls plucked from their beds by a group of extremists who would later threaten to sell them.

"It's like they were coming for a shopping trip," a villager who witnessed the attack told CNN.

Some lucky girls managed to escape that night when, after they were loaded into cargo trucks, they made a dash for freedom.

"We would rather die than go," one of the girls told CNN. "We ran into the bush. We ran and we ran."

Complications in the search for Nigerian girls
Women in Abuja, Nigeria, hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, May 14, one month after nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The abductions have attracted national and international outrage. Women in Abuja, Nigeria, hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, May 14, one month after nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The abductions have attracted national and international outrage.
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
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Photos: Nigerians protest over kidnapped girls Photos: Nigerians protest over kidnapped girls
Weeks after the April 14 kidnapping of 276 Nigerian girls, worried families and supporters have blamed the government for not doing enough to find them. Their cries have spread worldwide on social media under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. From regular people to celebrities, here are some of the people participating in the movement. Weeks after the April 14 kidnapping of 276 Nigerian girls, worried families and supporters have blamed the government for not doing enough to find them. Their cries have spread worldwide on social media under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. From regular people to celebrities, here are some of the people participating in the movement.
'Bring Back Our Girls!'
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Bring Back Our Girls Bring Back Our Girls
Follow Nima Elbagir's journey to Chibok  Follow Nima Elbagir's journey to Chibok
Follow Nima Elbagir's journey to ChibokFollow Nima Elbagir's journey to Chibok

With fear in her eyes and voice, the young woman, who asked not to be identified, described the experience to a CNN crew that made the long, dangerous trip to her village.

She said she and two friends who had also escaped saw something on fire and headed in that direction, presuming it was building in the village that had been set ablaze. Normally, Chibok is pitch black at night.

Officials have said that Boko Haram militants abducted 276 girls from the boarding school on April 14 and that some escaped into a forest.

Villagers said they passed along warnings to local police that the terrorists were on their way that night. They said they received phone calls from family and friends from surrounding villages and were told that there was a convoy of cargo trucks, pickups and motorcycles heading their way.

One villager said he was told, "They are coming for you. Run!"

The villagers said police called for reinforcements, but none came. Everyone, including the police, fled into the bush during the attack. But the girls were asleep in their dorms.

The stories appear to confirm an Amnesty International report that the government couldn't put together enough troops to head off the attack.

The girl who described her escape to CNN was still shaken up by the events. When asked to describe what her kidnappers wore, she responded: "I feel afraid."

Her school is closed, but if it were open, she says, she wouldn't go back.

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