News / Africa

Amnesty: 1,500 Nigerians Killed in Boko Haram Violence in 2014

FILE - A Nigerian policeman stands guard by burned out cars and houses, following an attack by suspected Islamic extremists in Kawuri, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
FILE - A Nigerian policeman stands guard by burned out cars and houses, following an attack by suspected Islamic extremists in Kawuri, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Heather Murdock
— Amnesty International says 1,500 people have been killed this year in an escalating armed conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and Nigerian security forces.  Amnesty says more than half the victims were civilians.

Amnesty International calls the rising number of Boko Haram attacks “truly shocking” and the reaction of Nigerian security forces, “brutality.”

The rights group says both sides may have committed acts that “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."  It calls for an investigation by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group based in northeastern Nigeria, has been attacking government forces, churches, schools, markets and mosques since it began violent operations in 2009.

Three northeastern states have been under emergency rule for nearly 11 months but Elizabeth Donnelly of the Africa Program at the London-based policy institute Chatham House says the attacks continue to get worse.

“It has got more violent and it is such a range of targets from communities to schools and such softer targets to actually really prominent military targets," said Donnelly.

Rights groups have repeatedly accused Nigerian security forces of responding to the violence with extra-judicial killings and holding suspects in inhumane prison conditions for long periods of time without charge or trial.

The Nigerian military denies these accusations and says no military in the word has devised a perfect plan to combat terrorists.

Donnelly says the military also faces a constantly changing and growing insurgency that is difficult to combat because it has no clear leadership structure, funding sources or focus.

“Beyond that there are lots of what you describe as peripheral elements to the organization that may well shift and change.  Interests, motivations shift and change," she said.

Boko Haram says it wants to impose its harsh version of Islamic law and ban all Western education.  But its tactics and real motivations appear to be constantly changing, says Donnelly.

“It is adapting, and adaptation means change.  This is a group in flux [constantly changing], but I think it is a group that will always remain in flux.  And I think that is quite key in terms of policy responses, knowing that," she said.

Last week, Abubakar Shekau, the man who claims to lead the group, released a video taking credit for a recent attack on a military base and detention center.

Amnesty International says it has “credible evidence” 600 people were killed after Boko Haram attacked Giwa barracks, and that most of the victims were detainees killed by soldiers.

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