After suffering for over a year as prisoners of Nigeria's deadly terrorist group Boko Haram, the female captives - some of them just infants--were on the verge of being rescued by the Nigerian military when the militants began stoning them to death.
The Associated Press reports that over 677 women and girls were rescued over the past week as the Nigerian military destroyed dozens of insurgent camps hidden deep in the Sambisa forest. Those who were rescued were taken to an old deserted school, known as the Malkohi refugee camp, where they recounted in horrific detail the events that had transpired just moments before their freedom.
"We just have to give praise to God that we are alive, those of us who have survived," said Lami Musa, a 27 year old woman who had given birth to a baby girl just five days earlier.
"Boko Haram came and told us they were moving out and said that we should run away with them," Musa recalled of the day she and the other women were rescued. "But we said no. Then they started stoning us. I held my baby to my stomach and doubled over to protect her."
The young woman and another survivor, Salamatu Bulama, recalled how several young girls and women were killed in the stoning, and at least three others were killed in the crossfire between Boko Haram militants and the Nigerian army.
Unfortunately, the horror wasn't over. Bulama revealed that other women were hiding in some bushes nearby waiting to be rescued. As the Nigerian soldiers approached in their armored vehicle, they did not see the women hiding in the brush, and thus ran over them, crushing them to death.
"I think those killed there were about 10," said Bulama, CBS News reports.
For the young mother, however, the most painful loss was that of her two year old son, who died of an illness she said was exacerbated by malnutrition two months ago.
"What will I tell my husband?" Bulama said through tears. She heard Sunday from other survivors using borrowed cell phones to try and trace relatives that her husband is alive and in the northern town of Kaduna.
Other women recalled how while in captivity, they were fed just one meal of "dry maize" a day, and were forced to watch as their fellow captives slowly died from starvation.
"Every day, we witnessed the death of one of us and waited for our turn," said Umaru, a 24-year-old mother of two.
Some of the children were "just little skeletal bodies with flaps of skin that make them look like old people", Associated Press reporter Michelle Faul told the BBC after visiting the camp where survivors were staying.
Mula, whose husband was killed in the initial Boko Haram attacks, said the rescue saved her from a forced marriage.
"They took me so I can marry one of their commanders," she said of the militants who carried her away from her village after killing her husband and forcing her to abandon their three young children..
"When they realized I was pregnant, they said I was impregnated by an infidel, and we have killed him. Once you deliver, within a week we will marry you to our commander," she recalled, explaining that many of the other women were also forced into marrying Boko Haram militants.
Thousands have been killed in northern Nigeria since Boko Haram began its insurgency in 2009 to drive out all Christians from the country and establish an Islamic state. However, over the past several months, the Nigerian army has been attacking Boko Haram bases with increased efficiency, and since February has recaptured most of the territory the terrorist group had taken in the previous year.
According to the BBC, the group's last remaining hideouts are believed to be in the Sambisa forest, which surrounds a reserve of the same name.