|More Cooperation Needed against Boko Haram, Says Chad|
|[AnNahar] Chad's President Idriss Deby has called for better coordination between coalition forces fighting in , warning that the group has been but not defeated.|
"If we still have to fight and catch (Boko Haram leader) Abubakar Shekau, the armies have to work together," Deby said on a visit to Nigeria's capital Abuja on Monday to meet outgoing President .
"Boko Haram has been broken but isn't finished," he told s. "Our weak point is we haven't been able to coordinate operations on the ground."
Nigeria's army has been assisted by the militaries in Chad, Niger and since early February, which has led to a series of successes against the in the restive region.
Nigeria-based Boko Haram has led a six-year Islamist insurgency that has killed some 15,000 people and displaced about 1.5 million.
Towns and territory captured by the Islamists have been retaken and a major offensive has been under way for weeks in the group's Sambisa Forest stronghold in Nigeria's Borno state.
But Chad and Niger especially have complained that the Nigerian military has not stepped in to take over security after towns in border regions have been recaptured by their soldiers.
There have also been reports of Abuja wanting the neighboring armies to withdraw from its territory, allowing in some cases the to regroup and come back in to liberated areas.
Deby, who has previously bemoaned the apparent lack of a joined-up approach, said Shekau had exploited the situation, allowing him to remain free from capture.
"If there had been better cooperation, Shekau would have been wiped out with all his commanders," the president added.
According to Chad, some 5,000 of its soldiers have been involved in the counter-insurgency and 71 have .
Just before Nigeria's presidential election, which Jonathan lost to former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, Deby publicly criticized the president's approach to the security crisis.
On Monday, however, he congratulated Jonathan as a "great democrat" and "Pan-Africanist" for having contributed to the stability and peace of the region by conceding defeat to Buhari.
"When Nigeria coughs, all neighboring countries catch a cold," Deby added.
Deby also met Buhari on his visit but no details were disclosed about their discussions.
|Where is Abubakar Shekau?|
|[PULSE.NG] Abubakar Shekau is nowhere to be found.|
The leader was last heard from in March 2015 when he pledged allegiance to the terror group (ISIS) via an audio statement.
Since then he has practically gone underground and even failed to make a statement during Nigeria's recently concluded elections, which he vowed to disrupt.
Prior to this time, it was believed that Shekau had taken refuge in the group's notorious stronghold, Sambisa Forest.
intensive military operations in the forest, which led to the rescue of about 1000 , have failed to provide any clue as to the Boko Haram leader's whereabouts.
None of the captives freed from the sect has testified to seeing Shekau and the only ones who spoke of him told that the frequently threatened to take them to the terrorist boss in his abode deep in the forest.
The Boko Haram leader was recently named as one of TIME's most influential 100 people in the world; a development to which he would ordinarily have responded by mocking world leaders.
Shekau remained unusually silent and is still maintaining that silence to the confusion and bewilderment of many.
A Nigerian military source on Thursday, April 23, told Vanguard of his frustration at the elusiveness of the Boko Haram leader.
"The guy simply disappeared from the radar and suddenly vanished. We wish we can catch him alive," the source, who chose to remain anonymous, said.
Another report, by the Daily Sun, has it that Shekau might have fled the country.
"Having discovered that he was being tracked through his Thuraya satellite phone, Shekau recently dropped the line and handset totally to evade capture. But the last satellite image of him and other intelligence pieced together by forces on the battle frontline show his desperation to escape from the country to parts of East Africa or North Africa where ISIS is having some footholds," the Sun quotes a military source as saying.
The source also added that Shekau had changed his appearance in order to evade capture.
The Boko Haram leader was last seen in public in 2009 and since then, the Nigerian Army has claimed to have killed him many times.
Director of Defence Information, Chris Olukolade has said that finding Shekau is not the army's priority.
"The sensational idea of looking out for one individual should not distract us or hold us down," Olukolade told .
The US, however, does not share the same sentiments as it has maintained a $7 million (N1.4 billion) bounty placed on Shekau and lists him among 71 most wanted in the world.
Many have speculated that the real Shekau might in fact be dead and the person who appears on the videos is just a double.
whether he is real or fake, many around the world will only heave a sigh of relief when the mystery behind Abubakar Shekau is finally unravelled.
|Nigerian Army Rescues 200 Girls, 93 Women|
|[TheAge.au] Nigeria's military is claiming the rescue of 200 girls and 93 women from a notorious Boko Haram stronghold, but the hostages are not those kidnapped from Chibok a year ago.|
"Troops have captured & destroyed three camps of terrorists inside the Sambisa forest & rescued 200 girls & 93 women," defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a text message, referring to the area in northeast Borno state where the Islamists have bases.
Following news of the rescue, Colonel Sani Usman sought to clarify that the rescued hostages were not the same group of girls whose plight unchained the #BringBackOurGirls global campaign.
"They were not, however, from Chibok, the village from which more than 200 girls were abducted in April 2014," he told Reuters in a text message.
Boko Haram claimed the abduction of 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, also in Borno, on April 14 last year. Fifty-seven girls escaped within hours of the attack but 219 remained in captivity. At the anniversary of their abduction, Nigeria's president-elect Muhammadu Buhari admitted it may never be possible to find the group.
In the weeks following the mass abduction, Nigerian security sources and locals in Borno said there were indications the girls had been taken to the Sambisa Forest. But defence officials and experts agreed that they were likely separated over the last 13 months, casting significant doubt on the possibility that they were being held together as a group.
Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, vowed to "marry them off" or sell them as "slaves."
The Chibok attack brought unprecedented world attention to the Nigeria's Islamist uprising. Celebrities and prominent personalities including US First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls that attracted supporters worldwide. Pakistani activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai voiced a heartfelt letter to the missing girls earlier this month.
But Boko Haram has also been blamed for hundreds of other kidnappings, especially targeting women and girls across northeast Nigeria. There is no indication of when the freed hostages were first taken.
The rescued girls and women will be screened on Wednesday to determine whether they had been abducted or if they were married to the militants, one intelligence source told Reuters.
"Now they are excited about their freedom," he said. "Tomorrow there will be screenings to determine whether they are Boko Haram wives, whether they are from Chibok, how long they have been in the camps, and if they have children."
Some of the girls were injured, and some of the militants killed, he said without giving more details.
The group was rescued from camps "discovered near or on the way to Sambisa," one army official said.
Nigerian forces backed by warplanes invaded the vast former colonial game reserve late last week as part of a push to win back territory from Boko Haram.
The group, notorious for violence against civilians, controlled an area roughly the size of Belgium at the start of the year but has since been beaten back by Nigerian troops, backed by Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
A military source who was in Sambisa told The Associated Press that some of the women rescued Tuesday fought back, and that Boko Haram was using armed women as human shields, putting them as their first line of defense.
The Nigerian troops managed to subdue them and rounded them all up, and some said they were forced to fight for Boko Haram, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Boko Haram also has used girls and women as suicide bombers, sending them into crowded market places and elsewhere.
|Boko Haram: Troops take over Alagarno, dislodge sect|
|[Nigerian Tribune] BOKO Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, may have been on the run as troops from the Seventh Division of the Nigerian Army have killed dozens of in Alagarno village and neighboring communities in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State.|
The development was recorded in a battle that lasted for over 48 hours, according to locals who fled the area to Maiduguri, the state capital.
|Suspected Boko Haram Gunmen Kill Seven as Nigerians Vote|
|[AnNahar] At least seven people were killed in separate attacks in the n state of Gombe on Saturday as the country held presidential elections, with suspected opening fire on voters at polling stations.|
The first attacks happened in the neighboring villages of Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani in the Nafada district of Gombe, which has been repeatedly targeted by the Islamists.
An election official, who requested anonymity, said: "We could hear the shouting, 'Didn't we warn you about staying away from (the) election?'"
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video message last month that the would disrupt Saturday's general election, which they see as "un-Islamic".
The threat and a spate of s and bombings against "soft" targets in restive northern Nigeria have prompted the authorities to impose tight security across the country.
The election official said the masked arrived in Birin Bolawa in a pickup truck at about 8:30 am (0730 GMT), just after accreditation for Saturday's presidential election had begun.
One voter was and others fled in panic.
"They set fire to all the election materials we abandoned as we escaped," he added.
Karim Jauro, a resident of Birin Fulani said the second attack happened at about 9:15 am, adding that had they known about the earlier shooting they would have abandoned the polling station.
"As soon as people saw them they began to run away but the opened fire on the polling station, killing one man," he said.
"They burnt the election materials. We strongly believe they are Boko Haram who have been warning people not to participate in the elections."
Gunmen then stormed the town of Dukku, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the state capital Gombe city, at about 11:30, shooting randomly as voters queued up at polling stations, residents said.
"They three people and injured two others," said Ibrahim Ahmad, adding that the attackers then killed a state assembly and the local chief in the nearby herding village of Tilen.
Bala Akilu, another resident who witnessed the shooting in Dukku, supported Ahmad's account.
"The shooting disrupted accreditation but later some polling stations reopened after the had left," he added.
"But others remained shut because voters had gone and were too afraid to return."
Nigeria's presidential election had been due to be held on February 14 but security concerns forced the country's electoral commission to postpone it just a week before the scheduled vote.
IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center said there were 28 Boko Haram attacks in the three weeks after the delay was announced compared with 18 in the three weeks beforehand -- a 56 percent rise.
There was also an increase in attacks in the six weeks after a crackdown against the began by Nigeria and coalition partners Niger, Chad and "We also saw a 20 percent increase in the number of suicide attacks in this period," Matthew Henman, head of the center, said on Saturday.
|Nigeria Recaptures Gwoza from Boko Haram|
|[AnNahar] Nigeria's military on Friday announced that troops had retaken the town of Gwoza from , from which the group declared their caliphate last year.|
"Troops this morning captured Gwoza destroying the Headquarters of the Terrorists self-styled Caliphate," Defense Headquarters in Abuja said on Twitter.
"Several died while many are captured. Mopping up of entire Gwoza and her suburbs is ongoing," it added in a separate message.
Earlier this month, residents who fled the town in Borno state told Agence Presse that had been massing in Gwoza and killing local people who were unable to flee.
That led to speculation that the group, which has been pushed out of a number of towns in three northeast states in recent weeks, was preparing for a final assault.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared on August 24 last year that Gwoza was "part of the Islamic caliphate", adding to speculation the were imitating the group.
- 'Final onslaught' -
Shekau had the previous month praised IS leader but stopped short of pledging allegiance. He has since formally allied himself to the group in Syria and Iraq.
Nigeria's national security Mike Omeri said last week that troops had begun the "final onslaught" against Boko Haram, saying Gwoza was one of three areas yet to be retaken.
A four-nation coalition of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and has claimed a number of successes since the turn of the year to end the insurgency which has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2009.
The ongoing operation was cited as a reason to delay Nigeria's general election on February 14 to this Saturday, as soldiers would not be able to provide security nationwide.
In a televised address broadcast on Friday, President hailed troops for having "successfully stemmed the seizure of Nigerian territories".
"I heartily commend the very courageous men and women of our Armed Forces for the immense sacrifices which they continue to make in defending the nation and protecting its citizens," he added.
But Chad's President Idriss Deby accused Nigeria of failing to cooperate with the regional coalition battling the jihadists, saying there had been zero contact between their armies.
"The whole world is asking why the Nigerian army, which is a big army... is not in a position to stand up to untrained kids armed with Kalashnikovs," Deby told French magazine Le Point, in an interview published this week.
|Boko Haram Leader 'Ordered Women to be Killed' in Gwoza|
|[AnNahar] Abubakar Shekau directly ordered women to be killed in the n town of Gwoza, one man who was forcibly conscripted into the ranks claimed on Friday. leader |
Usman Ali said he witnessed the killing in the town, which the group's elusive leader proclaimed as part of a caliphate last year and which has generally been seen as the s' headquarters.
Another local man, Haruna Abubakar, also confirmed the massacre in the Borno state town but neither was able to say how many women were killed.
There has also been speculation that the 219 kidnapped schoolgirls from Chibok who have been held by Boko Haram since last April were in Gwoza but both said there was no sign of them.
Nigeria's military said on Friday that troops had recaptured Gwoza, the latest claimed success in a regional offensive involving Chad, Niger and There has been increasing evidence that Boko Haram has committed atrocities as the coalition regains ground.
Residents who fled the town of Bama, also in Borno state, earlier this month, also reported that dozens of women forced into marriage with Boko Haram fighters were killed.
- 'We had no choice' -
Ali, a 35-year-old farmer, said the rebels came to his village of Kilekasa, 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Gwoza and about 15 kilometers from Chibok late on Friday March 13.
In the convoy of about 46 all-terrain pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns were two armored vehicles, he said, adding: "Shekau drove in a black Toyota jeep."
Shekau was taken to the village of Huyum about five kilometers away and the following morning all residents of Kilekasa were assembled and able-bodied men were given guns.
"We had no choice," he told Agence -Presse, adding that one man who tried to flee was executed in front of them.
"On Sunday March 15, Shekau assembled his men including us, the new recruits, and addressed us. He said they should go back to Gwoza and kill all of their women they left behind.
"He said if they didn't kill them they would not join them in paradise. They took us along to Gwoza where we witnessed the carnage.
"They gathered the women who were in large number and opened fire on them.
"One of the women who was heavily pregnant asked to be spared until she delivered her baby but her request was turned down."
- Chibok girls -
Ali said he returned to Kilekasa later that day and fled at nightfall to Yola, the capital of neighboring Adamawa state.
"I don't know what has been the fate of the people in the village. When we went to Gwoza we didn't see any sign of the girls from Chibok. They must have been moved to another place," he added.
Abubakar, who fled Gwoza to a camp for internally displaced people in Yola, said his aunt left the town on March 16.
"She told me that Boko Haram moved out of the town three days earlier at night in several vehicles. They returned on Sunday and killed their wives, some of them pregnant," he said.
"They gathered them in one place and shot them dead. She said there were no Boko Haram when she left Gwoza. She didn't know where they moved to.
"When I asked her about the whereabouts of the Chibok girls she told me they were not in Gwoza."
|Boko Haram: 'Shekau is alive, he still preaches in Gwoza' -- Female escapee|
|[DAILYPOST.NG] A woman who recently Abubakar Shekau, is still alive. captivity in Gwoza town of Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State has said the sect leader, |
She told newsmen in Maiduguri yesterday that Shekau, " is alive and healthy" and often preaches in Gwoza township.
According to the woman, before their escape from the den of the terrorists, they witnessed the killings of 75 elders of Gwoza, including her father in-law, who were hanged and their bodies left on the streets of Gwoza.
"My husband is alive, he had run away since the early days of the invasion and he is currently here in Maiduguri.
"We were captured since then by the Boko Haram and have remained in their custody for more than three months before now.
"When we escaped, we travelled by night in the bushes until we arrived at Michika.
"Those who us at Michika said we were Boko Haram's wives, but we pleaded and having proven our innocence, they kept us for days until when the former governor of Adamawa State, Mr Boni Haruna, came to Michika.
"It was he who offered to help us with food and medication. When we regained our strength, he asked us many questions.
"It was during the questioning that I mentioned my husband brother's name who is living in Adamawa and they sent for him. After he had identified me, they released me to him, before I later came to Maiduguri to unite with my family," she said.
|Regional forces retake Nigerian town from Boko Haram|
|[Iran Press TV] Troops from Chad and Niger have managed to liberate a Nigerian town from the terrorists, as the regional alliance against the group continues its advances in western Africa.|
Around 200 of the Boko Haram terrorist group were reported killed on Monday in the operation which saw the Nigerian town of Damask liberated.
A Chadian security source said three Chadian soldiers were killed and 20 others in the offensive which began Sunday as part of a regional effort to purge Nigeria of the Takfiri s.
Officials in Niger also confirmed the recapture of the town, which had been under Boko Haram's control over the past four months.
The heavy fighting comes as the Takfiri group, which has been wreaking havoc in Nigeria for the past six years, recently pledged allegiance to the ISIL operating in Iraq and Syria.
In an audio message last week, Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau (pictured above), voiced his support for ISIL's cruel massacre of the innocent people in the two Arab countries.
|Boko Haram leader pledges allegiance to IS|
|Kano, Nigeria -- The leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram militants, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in an audio recording released Saturday.|
"We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims, Ibrahim ibn Awad ibn Ibrahim al-Husseini al-Qurashi," said the voice on the message, which was believed to be that of Shekau and was released through Boko Haram's Twitter account.
Qurashi is better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the IS group which has proclaimed a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.
Shekau spoke in Arabic, but the message contained French and English subtitles. It was not immediately
Shekau was not pictured, a contrast from most of Boko Haram's past messages in which the Islamist leader has been shown, often in close up shots. But Shekau did identify himself in the recording, which was accompanied by the subtitles and a graphic including an image of a radio microphone.
There have in recent months been signs of closer ties between the Nigerian militants and the IS group, with both using similar ways of communicating with the outside world. Boko Haram has notably begun releasing videos that resemble those made by IS.
Boko Haram has been waging a six-year uprising against the Nigerian state, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Analysts have long debated the extent of Boko Haram's ties to other jihadist groups, but the evidence was never clear.
|Three Bombings Blamed on Boko Haram Kill 58 in NE Nigeria|
|[AnNahar] Three bombings, including one by a female er, killed at least 58 people and 139 others in on Saturday, in the latest violence blamed on Many children were among the dead in the s that hit two crowded markets and a busy bus station in Maiduguri, the region's largest city and capital of the embattled Borno state.|
The Nigerian Islamist have relentlessly attacked Maiduguri throughout their six-year uprising, which has cost more than 13,000 lives and security forces in the city have struggled to contain the bloodshed.
Nigeria has since last month claimed key victories over Boko Haram in an offensive being waged in cooperation with forces from neighboring , Chad and Niger.
Several towns and villages in the northeast previously captured by the have reportedly been taken back by government troops and experts have said that in response Boko Haram was likely to increase attacks on civilian targets in major cities.
- Markets, bus station attacked --
A woman with explosives strapped to her body blew herself up at roughly 11:20 am (1020 GMT) when she got out of a motorized rickshaw at Maiduguri's Baga fish market, said the head of the fisherman's union, Abubakar Gamandi, who was at the scene.
"The bomb was devastating because it occurred at a crowded area," said Jamuna Jarmi, a grocery seller.
Boko Haram has deployed women and even girls as young as seven as human bombs in attacks across northern Nigeria in recent months, prompting global condemnation, including from other jihadist groups.
About an hour later another blast rocked the popular Monday Market, causing chaos as locals voiced anger at security forces who struggled to control the scene.
Just after 1:00 pm a third blast hit a used car lot which is attached to the busy Borno Express bus terminal.
There were indications that the second and thirds blasts were also carried out by s but details were not immediately clear.
Borno's police commissioner Clement Adoda gave a toll of 58 dead "for the three locations" and 139 .
"Normalcy has been restored," he added, declining to give further details.
Gamandi, who was supporting rescue workers at Maiduguri General Hospital, told AFP that "the dead include " but said most of the victims were men.
Danlami Ajaokuta, a vigilante leader whose fighters have been working with military across the northeast, said the security forces had ordered the closure of all businesses in Maiduguri fearing the prospect of further attacks.
Borno State's Justice Commissioner Kaka Shehu blamed Boko Haram for Saturday's violence, describing it as a response to the defeats suffered by the in recent weeks.
"The are angry with the way they were sacked from towns and villages and are now venting their anger," Shehu told AFP.
- Elections looming --
Nigeria postponed its elections initially scheduled for February to March 28 after security chiefs said they needed more time to weaken Boko Haram.
While reported victories in the remote northeast may enable polling in areas previously controlled by the s, rising unrest in Maiduguri is likely to raise fear as election day approaches.
Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau has vowed to disrupt the vote and widespread attacks, especially near polling stations, could prove disastrous.
Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the conflict are living in Maiduguri, swelling the city's population to well over two million.
Maiduguri residents have voiced overwhelming support for opposition leader and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who is thought to be running neck-and-neck with President .
Buhari, a from the north of religiously divided Nigeria, is expected to poll well among those hit hardest by Boko Haram.
But Jonathan, a Christian from the southern oil producing Niger Delta region, is still seen as having considerable support in many areas and analysts have said the likely result is still to close to call.
|Fear, Violence, Kidnapping: Life for Women under Boko Haram|
|[AnNahar] When attacks made life at home unbearable, Rebecca Samuel was confronted with a stark choice that any mother would struggle to make.|
Her family had decided to leave the remote town of Chibok, , in March 2014 because of the persistent threats from the Islamist s.
But Samuel decided that her 17-year-old daughter Sarah should stay back for an extra month to take her final secondary school exams.
On April 14, Boko Haram stormed Sarah's school, kidnapping her and 275 of her classmates. Fifty-seven girls escaped, but the rest, including Sarah, have not been heard from since.
"Every day I am crying," said Samuel, 36, who had been living with her family as refugees in neighboring before relocating to Nigeria's capital, Abuja.
But while the Chibok abductions remain the most prominent attack of the six-year insurgency, they represent only a fraction of the atrocities inflicted on women and girls in the bitter conflict.
(HRW) last year estimated that the rebels had kidnapped more than 500 women and girls since 2009, including those seized from Chibok but the figure could be much higher.
Female hostages have been forced into marriage, raped and been made to work as domestic slaves for fighters. Some recounted being deployed to carry ammunition on the front line.
Other women forced to run from attacks have trekked for days through the northeast's harsh bushlands, sometimes with infants strapped to their backs.
And, in a new tactic widely reviled even by other jihadists, Boko Haram has over the last 10 months increasingly used females, including , as human bombs in attacks across the north.
A 33-year-old woman was beaten to death on Sunday at a market in northern Bauchi state following suspicion that she had explosives strapped to her body.
HRW and other experts say the incidents of females and other "vulnerable groups" being targeted has risen dramatically since Boko Haram began facing increased military pressure in 2013.
Overall, the plight facing women in the rebels' stronghold is "a picture of violence and intimidation", Jacob Zenn and Elizabeth Pearson wrote in the U.S. Journal of Terrorism Research.
Hauwa Mohammed was one of 158 hostages released by Boko Haram on January 23, two weeks after their abduction from the village of Katarko, in northeast Yobe state.
"I was full of rage and hatred against (the Islamists)," said Mohammed, recounting her time in captivity.
She said her mind was fixated on what the captors might do to her three daughters, who were also kidnapped, as all the hostages faced pressure to swear allegiance to Boko Haram.
"How could I ever subscribe to this ideology that supports killing, wanton destruction, kidnap and rape?" Mohammed told AFP in an interview after her release.
She could not explain why the chose to release the group but noted that countless others have been far less fortunate.
"I pray for all the women they are holding captive to be freed from the life of horror they are going through," she said.
The insurgency in northern Nigeria, which has killed more than 13,000 people since 2009, has also thrown the spotlight on the deeper societal crisis in the impoverished region, including grave gender disparities.
Roughly half of Nigeria's 173 million people live in the predominantly north of the country.
Only three percent of females from the north complete secondary school, the British Council said in a 2012 report, which was researched before the insurgency crippled the region and forced school closures in parts of the northeast.
More than two-thirds of girls aged 15-19 were unable to read a sentence, compared to less than 10 percent in the mostly Christian south, according to the report.
Most observers agree that Nigeria not only needs to contain Boko Haram militarily but also implement an aggressive program to kickstart development in the north and empower both and men and women to resist the s' radical, violent agenda.
For now, peace in northern Nigeria seems like a distant dream for Samuel, who often attends the daily marches in Abuja on behalf of the Chibok hostages, organized by the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
Sarah spent her 18th birthday in December in captivity, possibly as a forced bride after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vowed to sell the Chibok hostages as "slaves" and to "marry them off".
"It is difficult," her mother said simply. "Only God can help us."