As Nigerian armed forces move into three northern states that are under emergency rule, the army says Boko Haram militants have attacked a town outside the emergency area.
At a press conference Friday in the Nigerian capital, Major General Mobolaji Koleoso, chief of civil military affairs, said he won’t talk about what’s been called a “massive” movement of troops to the north to crush a nearly four-year-old insurgency.
But outside of the emergency rule zone - in Katsina State - he said there was an attack on a town called Daura on Thursday night. He blamed Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that behind attacks on churches, schools, police stations, military bases, and other targets, leaving thousands dead.
“Government and public institutions have been targeted with arson and of course they are just trying to cause mayhem, to disrupt the peaceful lives of the people of Daura," he said. "I mean, make them feel a sense of insecurity and make them to feel that they have come to town and they can take charge of their lives.”
He said two Boko Haram militants were killed in fighting while three others died in a car accident as they fled. He said soldiers recovered improvised explosive devices, golf cars, ammunition and 10 AK-47s.
Koleoso compared the attack to one in the northern town of Bama where dozens were killed on May 7 and referred to photographs taped to a board behind him. They appeared to be of dead bodies in camouflage military uniforms. Boko Haram militants are increasingly wearing camouflage, tricking the public into thinking they are government soldiers, he said.
“For the unsuspecting populace, these insurgents would have been misconstrued as soldiers of the Nigerian Army," Koleoso said. "No doubt, the Nigerian army has often been erroneously accused of heinous crimes on innocent citizens whereas the Boko Haram insurgents have been the perpetrators of the dastardly acts.”
Human Rights Watch says 3,600 people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence, including hundreds killed by security forces.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also accuse Nigerian security forces
of escalating the violence by shooting suspects rather than arresting them, burning homes and locking suspects up for a long period of time without trials.
On Tuesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered emergency rule and the immediate deployment of troops to three states that have been barraged by Boko Haram violence. The U.S. State Department called on Nigerian forces to keep human rights in mind as they go after the militants.