Boko Haram massacre victims mostly women, children

Fighting continued on Friday for Baga, a Nigerian town on the border with Chad, where Islamic extremists seized a key military base on 3 January and attacked again on Wednesday.

Africa Check: Over 13 000 killed in Nigeria’s insurgency.

Meanwhile, hundreds of bodies remain strewn in the bush from the attack which Amnesty International suggested on Friday is the “deadliest massacre” in the history of Boko Haram.

“Security forces have responded rapidly, and have deployed significant military assets and conducted airstrikes against militant targets,” Mike Omeri, the government spokesperson on the insurgency, said in a statement.

Human carnage

District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when insurgents drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents.

“The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesperson for poorly armed civilians in a defence group that fights Boko Haram, told The Associated Press.

He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies. “No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now,” Gava said.

An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2 000 people killed.

If true, “this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.

Condemnation

In Washington, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki condemned the attacks.

“We urge Nigeria and its neighbours to take all possible steps to address the urgent threat of Boko Haram. Even in the face of these horrifying attacks, terrorist organisations like Boko Haram must not distract Nigeria from carrying out credible and peaceful elections that reflect the will of the Nigerian people,” Psaki said in a statement.

The previous bloodiest day in the uprising involved soldiers gunning down unarmed detainees freed in a 14 March 2014 attack on Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri city. Amnesty said then that satellite imagery indicated more than 600 people were killed that day.

The five-year insurgency killed more than 10 000 people last year alone, according to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations. More than a million people are displaced inside Nigeria and hundreds of thousands have fled across its borders into Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Refugee camps

Emergency workers said this week they are having a hard time coping with scores of children separated from their parents in the chaos of Boko Haram’s increasingly frequent and deadly attacks.

Just seven children have been reunited with parents in Yola, capital of Adamawa state, where about 140 others have no idea if their families are alive or dead, said Sa’ad Bello, the co-ordinator of five refugee camps in Yola.

He said he was optimistic that more reunions will come as residents return to towns that the military has retaken from extremists in recent weeks.

Suleiman Dauda, 12, said he ran into the bushes with neighbours when extremists attacked his village, Askira Uba, near Yola last year.

“I saw them kill my father, they slaughtered him like a ram. And up until now I don’t know where my mother is,” he told The Associated Press at Daware refugee camp in Yola.

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