The first of the Chibok schoolgirls to be rescued after being kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 has revealed that her time in captivity only strengthened her faith and expressed confidence that God will one day deliver her classmates, as well.
Amina Ali and her four-month-old baby were rescued in May near Damboa in Borno state by soldiers and a civilian vigilante group, more than two years after she and over 200 others were taken by the Islamist militants from a school in northeast Nigeria. The mass kidnapping shocked the world and sparked the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
During a recent interview with Reuters, the young woman revealed that many of her classmates, who are being held in Sambisa forest, were starved and resorted to eating raw maize, and that some had died in captivity, suffered broken legs or gone deaf after being too close to explosions.
"I think about them a lot - I would tell them to be hopeful and prayerful," Ali said. "In the same way God rescued me, he will also rescue them."
Despite living in bleak circumstances, she revealed that her faith in God prevented her from being frightened of the militants during her time in captivity: "I am not scared of Boko Haram - they are not my God," Ali said.
The young woman's mother echoed her daughter's sentiments, telling the outlet she had observed a positive change in Ali since her rescue, as she now slept much more peacefully than she had ever done before being abducted.
Ali, who for the past few months has been hidden away in a house in the capital Abuja for what the Nigerian government has called a "restoration process", told the outlet she is eager to return home.
"I just want to go home - I don't know about school," she said. "I will decide about school when I get back, but I have no idea when I will be going home."
However, she also told the outlet she misses the man she was forced to marry while in captivity, a suspected Boko Haram militant named Mohammed Hayatu.
"I want him to know that I am still thinking about him," she said. "Just because we got separated, that does not mean that I don't think about him."
Established in 2002, Boko Haram initially focused on opposing Western-style education. However, under the leadership of al-Barnawi, the terrorist group became more radical, carried out more killings and swore allegiance to ISIS in March 2015. Today, Boko Haram refers to itself as IS' "West African province".
Over the past seven years, the group has killed more than 20,000 people and drove more than 2.2 million from their homes in an effort to set up an Islamic state in the north.
Ali's interview came just days after Boko Haram released a video showing a masked man standing in front of a group of about 50 Chibok girls, saying some of their classmates had been killed in airstrikes, while others have been married off to fighters.
Esther Yakubu, whose daughter, Maida, was among those who appeared in the video, told CNN, "Seeing my baby standing with a terror[ist] with ... ammunition around his neck is not easy for a mother...But I also give thanks to God almighty. They say most of the girls are dead but mine is alive."
Esther and her husband Yakubu Kabu told the outlet that their unwavering Christian faith has kept them going through the darkest times, revealing that they pray together every morning and every midnight that the schoolgirls will make it home safely.
"I'm very, very happy," says Yakubu, having seen the video. "Because as long as she's alive, we will see her one day."