Nigerian soldiers involved in the war against the Islamist group Boko Haram have carried massive killing and destruction in the northern town of Baga last month, Human Rights Watch says in a report released late last week, urging the government of Goodluck Jonathan to conduct an independent investigation into the massacre.
Baga is a remote fishing community on the shores of Lake Chad, 200 km northeast of the city of Maiduguri.
The report, posted on the HRW website, quoted Baga residents as telling the rights group’s investigators that soldiers ransacked the town after the Boko Haram militant Islamist group attacked a military patrol, killing a soldier. The military said only 30 houses were destroyed, but the New York-based rights organisation has released shocking satellite images revealing an army in killing and destruction mood that left 2 000 burned homes and 183 bodies.
Nigeria’s trigger-happy security forces, who do not hesitate to shoot at anything that moves or breathes, are well-known on the continent for their brutal, intimidating and cruel methods.
“The Nigerian military has a duty to protect itself and the population from Boko Haram attacks, but the evidence indicates that it engaged more in destruction than in protection,” HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele said in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“The glaring discrepancies between the facts on the ground and statements by senior military officials raise concerns that they tried to cover up military abuses.”
HRW said that since the attack, the military has restricted journalists’ access into the town. Boko Haram has destroyed mobile telephone towers in the area, claiming that security services used mobile phones to track down its members, making communication particularly difficult for survivors of the attack, HRW said.
The Nigerian army’s fight against Boko Haram terrorists has taken a violent turn in the past few years, with civilians, mostly women and children, usually paying a heavy price. Analysts say the Nigerian army has neither the resources nor the appropriate expertise to win the war against Boko Haram. Late last year, Jonathan made a deseperate plea to the Obama administration to help his country cope with security challenges such as the Boko Haram everlasting menace, crude oil theft, and kidnapping. More than half of all Nigeria’s crude oil annual production is sold to the US.
Book Haram, whose name means ‘Western education is a sacrilege’ said it was fighting for the full Islamisation of Nigeria, and the application of Sharia Law in Africa’s most populous nation.
*Photo by Info-Afrique.com. Victims of Boko Haram terrorists.