A 67-year-old Nigerian woman who managed to escape after allegedly being captured by terror group Boko Haram has told Nigerian media she knows where the militants are keeping dozens of abducted girls.
In an interview with the Daily Times, Maryamu Bala explained that when she and her daughter were kidnapped they were taken to a camp near the Sambisa forest in the country's north east. She recognised the location as she used to go there as a child to fetch firewood.
"A girl who is one of the maids [at the camp] confided in me, 'Mama, you see the other side of the camp is where [Boko Haram leader] Abubakar Shekau and top commandants are living. There are many girls of our age there, even me, they don't allow me to go there,'" Bala, who is at a refugee camp in Adamawa state, said.
"When that young girl said that to me, I quickly remembered the story of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls. Though I did not see them, my spirit told me they are in that camp."
Referring to the camp where she was allegedly being detained, Bala said: "My first three weeks in that camp also opened my eyes to the fact that the place is for training recruits as foot soldiers.
"We saw helicopters dropping things in cartons; heavy objects were always being unloaded using the captured victims under very hash instructions."
Boko Haram is renowned for kidnapping civilians, especially children, and using them in terror attacks throughout north-eastern Nigeria. Last April, the insurgents made headlines worldwide after they kidnapped 220 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok, in Borno state.
The mass-abduction was condemned by several countries and prominent politicians and celebrities joined online campaigns to urge the Nigerian government to step up the efforts to find the girls.
Shortly after the incident, reports emerged that the girls were being used in suicide bomb attacks.
Bala's claims comes as the Nigerian government released a statement in which it admitted it does not know the Chibok girls' location after months of search.
"In all the liberated areas we have, we have also made enquiries but the truth is when the terrorists are running away they also run with their families," Nigerian Premium Times quoted army chief Kenneth Minimah as saying.
"And those we have come in contact have not made any comments suggesting that Chibok girls were there and taken away. But we are optimistic that as the war gets closer, the territory is becoming elusive to them [terrorists] and we will get further details on that."
The Nigerian army is being assisted by African Union (AU) soldiers – comprising troops from Niger, Chad, Benin and Cameroon – and hundreds of mercenaries in the fight against the insurgents, who have killed thousands of people in north-eastern Nigeria in recent years.
Since the deployment of AU troops in February, the Nigerian military has regained control of several areas held by the terrorists, whose insurgence started in 2009.
The deployment followed President Goodluck Jonathan's decision to postpone presidential elections by six weeks on the grounds of security.
In February, Nigeria announced the fight against the insurgents, who recently pledged allegiance to terror group Islamic State (Isis), was almost over. However, critics have cast doubts on previous claims by the Nigerian government and army that they had reached a truce with the terrorists.