Also in the camp are legions of Boko Haram fighters waiting to be interrogated by the Nigerian government. There are fighters who joined the group willingly, often lured with gifts of money and motorcycles, but also those who were forced or brainwashed into signing up.
One fighter was a hafiz, someone who has memorized the entire Quran. But, he said, he never knew how to interpret the words he could recite so well.
In his early teens, he listened to Boko Haram’s leaders preach that the whole world had turned to wayward living and that they needed to stand and fight.
“I totally believed them,” he said, seated on a carpet, compulsively rubbing the sole of his foot over and over with stubby fingers. “I trusted them and anything they said, I agreed.”
He killed 17 people, he said, and he did it joyfully, seeing it as a blessing.
Around the time Mr. Shekau killed himself, the hafiz began secretly listening to recordings of sermons by imams preaching a completely different, and peaceful, interpretation. Distraught, he plotted his surrender.
“I want forgiveness. But I don’t know how God will forgive me,” he said.
Another, a 28-year-old spy, said he had joined Boko Haram when he was 13 and was part of a group of 400 people who decided to surrender together. Despite admitting to killing at least 10 people with his own hands, and causing the deaths of “countless” others through his spying, he felt he might have a chance at being accepted by the community.
“Top military officials assured us we would not be killed,” he said. For the first time, he saw an opportunity to live an ordinary life, he said.