News / Africa

State Governor Tours Site of Weekend Slaughter in Nigeria

In this image shot with a mobile phone, a young girl stands amid the burned ruins of Baga, Nigeria, April 21, 2013.
In this image shot with a mobile phone, a young girl stands amid the burned ruins of Baga, Nigeria, April 21, 2013.

Location

Baga, Nigeria
Heather Murdock
Residents of a northern Nigerian town are returning from hideouts in the bush after a fierce  -- and deadly -- battle between suspected Islamist militants and government security forces
 
The fishing town of Baga sits on the northeastern edge of Nigeria, on a bit of land that juts into Lake Chad.  
 
Residents of the town fled their homes over the weekend when fierce fighting broke out between the military and suspected militants from the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram.  A local official, Lawan Kole, says the fighting destroyed about 2,000 homes and left 185 people dead.

A soldier involved in the field operations - who asked not to be named - says Boko Haram fighters are to blame for the carnage because they were operating in the town, essentially using the civilian population as a human shield.   
 
“What happened that night was an exchange of fire between us and the rebels, terrorists," the soldier said. "It was terrible.  They fired RPG canisters.  That was what brought out fire.”
 
But some locals say the battle was out of control on both sides and that soldiers set fire to houses and chased people into the bush.  
 
The battle is believed to have begun Friday night, but it wasn’t until Sunday before it hit the news in the Nigerian capital.
 
On Sunday, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima visited Baga.  The governor urged residents who were slowly returning to town to remain in their homes and vowed that if peace was not restored, he would personally relocate to Baga.
 
“I will ask everybody to come back to his home and stay," Shettima said. "If the harassment continues, I will personally relocate from Maiduguri to here and let me be harassed along with the rest of the people.”
 
Boko Haram has been battling the government since 2009, attacking churches, schools, telecom infrastructure, media houses, government offices and the local U.N. headquarters.  
 
The crisis in Baga over the weekend represents one of the highest casualty counts for a single attack but it is not yet clear if victims were targeted or died in fires during the battle.
 
Boko Haram advocates for the enforcement of Islamic law in Nigeria and freedom for imprisoned members.  But the group communicates with the public only through unverifiable e-mails and videos and no one is certain exactly who they are or what they represent.
 
Some northern community leaders have asked the government to grant amnesty to the Boko Haram fighters, in an effort to end the mounting death tolls.

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Comments
     
by: Kola
April 23, 2013 12:23 PM
Little wonder why Africa makes the news headlines given its propensity for violence and SADC and the UN together with the Hague look on. Will this ever change, very doubtful to say the least.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
April 22, 2013 10:22 AM
Why was the battle not expected? Some Nigerian knows that boko haram has a 5000man strength, and yet they say boko haram is faceless. The face of boko haram has been revealed in the face of the person who knows its number of combatants. How did he know? Who will receive the amnesty proposed for this group? How is it to be administered?

So those convicted man-eaters will be let loose on the populace once again? What a government will do this evil to its people! Ahmadinejad was in Niger just last week, did anyone care to negotiate the amnesty for the group with him? Was amnesty his idea? Or did he not bring enough money to the group so that they want to abandon the struggle; do they no longer want removal of civilization from that part of the world? I think the army is getting it right by involving the locals in the fight since they (the locals) refuse to expose the nihilists hiding among them until a war breaks out.
In Response

by: Dr Deji Daramola from: Canada
April 23, 2013 12:55 PM
It is not fair to justify the killing of innocent Nigerians just because they did not give away information about terrorists in their midst. How do they report this to?..the Nigerian police? you must be kidding. If you report things of this nature to the police in Nigeria one of three things will happen; they will either detain you as a suspect yourself, detain you for some flimsy reason in order to get a bribe out of you or insiders amongst them will inform Boko Haram that you are a traitor. Either way you look at it, the civilians are doomed!

come to think of it, the battle started Friday, news got to Abuja on Sunday (in an area as sensitive as Borno) its a shame. The governor should stop gibberish, he should move over to that town right away..of course he knows he cant afford to, Nigerian politician don't sacrifice anything for nobody!

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