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A distraught father has described his constant anguish ever since his eldest daughter went missing two weeks ago during a murderous rampage by Boko Haram militants.
"I am very worried about her," the dad in his 50s who asked to be identified as a civil servant told NBC News by telephone. "Every day I think about her, I have not even slept. I pray to God that she is still alive."
After attacking a military base near the town of Baga on January 3, the brutal Islamist sect turned its attention to the civilian population in and around the Nigerian fishing town. It torched thousands of buildings, kidnapped women and children, and killed townsfolk indiscriminately.
The father told NBC News that he only had enough time to bundle his wife and most of his children into a car, and head for the relatively safe haven of Maiduguri 100 miles to the south.
But with the area under attack and the safety of his family to consider, he said it was simply not an option to travel across town to the home of his 23-year-old daughter and her husband.
Baga and a number of surrounding communities were devastated during the week-long assault by Boko Haram, the militant sect that wants to establish a hard-line Islamic state in Nigeria.
The group gained worldwide infamy in April when it kidnapped 276 school girls from the town of Chibok, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The raid on Baga is believed to be the group’s deadliest ever act. As many as 2,000 people are still missing.
"When Boko Haram arrived they were shooting everywhere," the father said of his escape. The Nigerian military — plagued by allegations of human rights abuses and corruption — has been criticized for its response to the insurgency. "Some soldiers stayed to fight but many of them ran away," he added.
Other witnesses who fled the massacre described the fighters killing women and children in the streets. One told the human rights group Amnesty International that the insurgents shot dead a woman while she was giving birth. "Half of the baby boy is out and she died like this," the witness told Amnesty.
After arriving in Maiduguri, the father was told by other survivors that his daughter fled the violence and into the bush. Fighters chased down and captured many of those who tried to escape and detained hundreds of women and children at a local school, according to witnesses.
Although Boko Haram does not have the same level of administrative control enjoyed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, its insurgency has rendered some 20 towns in the northeast no-go areas for most civilians. With Baga now on that list of uninhabitable areas it is unclear when the father will be able to return home — let alone begin the search for his daughter.
"I left everything behind," he said. "All of my possessions were in that house. But none of that matters when I think of my daughter."