According to Reuters, out of the 35 women captured by the Islamic state fighters in Sirte, Libya, 5 Nigerian women were discovered to be part of the women captured and turned into sex slaves for months by ISIS. The 5 Nigerians, 2 children and 28 Eritreans were rescued by Libyan forces last December but made to face detention in a Misrata prison.
After the women were rescued from Sirte, they were investigated for possible ties to the group and held for several months in a Misrata prison but have now been released by Libyan authorities.
Then in mid-February, the Libyan attorney-general’s office announced that it had cleared the women of any wrongdoing, but their release was delayed for several more weeks, with no explanation given.
The group reportedly escaped from Sirte, a former Islamic State stronghold in central Libya, when forces from the nearby city of Misrata battled to oust the militants late last year.
Some of the women were said to have been on their way to Europe when the Islamic State fighters kidnapped and held them as sex slaves.
Fortunately on Wednesday, they were all released and received by staff from the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Libyan Red Crescent, before being taken to a shelter for medical check ups.
One 14-year-old Eritrean girl said:
“I’m very happy, I can’t describe how I feel, but I am very happy, I can start a new life and see my family again,” she told Reuters before leaving the prison with the rest of the group on a Red Crescent bus.
A UNHCR official said the entire group had scabies, but otherwise appeared to be in reasonable physical condition. The agency says it expects to resettle the Eritreans as refugees.
Samer Haddadin, head of the UNHCR’s Libya mission said:
“We will send them to a safe house where they can be treated if they need medical treatment, and receive assistance from us, and be protected”. “At the same time we will be processing them for refugee status determination … and we are doing this to make sure we can find a resettlement country for those who meet the resettlement criteria.”
The Nigerians, five women and two children, will be able to apply for asylum or be offered to be repatriated.