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.
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
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.”
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.
Boko Haram abducted an estimated 276 girls in April from a boarding school in Chibok. Dozens escaped, but more than 200 are still missing.
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.