2,000 Feared Killed in 'Deadliest' Boko Haram Massacre in Baga, Northeast Nigeria

( [email protected] ) Jan 10, 2015 02:35 AM EST
Boko Haram
Fighting continued Friday around the town on Baga, near Nigeria’s border with Chad. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Reports of hundreds of bodies - too many to count - remain strewn in the bush in Nigeria prompts Amnesty International to suggest this latest assault, if true, as the "deadliest massacre" in the history of Boko Haram.

"If reports that the town was largely razed to the ground and that hundreds of even as many as two thousand civilians were killed are true, this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram's ongoing onslaught against the civilian population," said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.

Most of the victims are children, women and elderly who could not run fast enough when Islamic Terrorists Boko Haram drove into the town of Baga in Borno State, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.

Local spokesman for the poorly armed civilian who are fighting the Boko Haram said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies. "No one could attend to the corpses and even the serious injured ones who may have died by now," he said.

Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior official in Borno, told BBC that a fleeing resident reported to him that Baga, which had a population of about 10,000, was now "virtually non-existent" and "burnt down."

He said that Boko Haram killed more than 2,000 people. If the report is true, it would mean the group equaled its total kill count last year in this latest attack. More were said to have drowned in Lake Chad while attempting to swim to a nearby island.

According to Reuters, a local who fled the massacre detailed how Boko Haram was killing people.

"I saw bodies in the street. Children and women, some were crying for help," said Mohamed Bukar after fleeing to the state capital Maiduguri.

Since 2009, Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria, attacking police, schools, churches and civilians and bombing government buildings, resulting in over 9,000 dead. In 2014 alone, over 2,000 people have been killed, while more than 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Nigeria Boko Haram Attacks
In this Thursday Nov. 27, 2014 photo, children displaced after attacks by Boko Haram, line up in the camp of internal displace people, in Yola, Nigeria. Seven children have been reunited with parents lost in the chaos of attacks in Nigeria's northeastern Islamic insurgency but hundreds more remain alone, officials say of youngsters who have no idea if their families are alive or dead. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, file)

In August, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced an "Islamic Caliphate," and quickly gained control of a huge swath of Borno State in northeast Nigeria.

Nigeria is heading in an election on Feb. 14, and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan has just launched his campaign for reelection. The recent attacks appear to be an attempt by the rebels to assert authority, according to Roddy Barclay, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, a London-based political risk consultancy, the Times reports.

"Boko Haram has frequently attacked communities perceived to support the government," said Barclay. "The use of violence is designed to drive community fear and compliance in order to further Boko Haram's agenda."

With the latest massacre, the Nigerian government faces an unprecedented threat that requires a "comprehensive and coordinated strategy" to combat the insurgency, said Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African and Eurasian Affairs, the Time reports. "Until taking care of Boko Haram becomes a priority over concerns about the elections, there will be no way to contain the threat."

Since Boko Haram kidnapped approximately 270 Christian girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria, President Obama has directed that the U.S. government do everything it can to help Nigerian government find and free the abducted girls and, more broadly, to combat Boko Haram in partnership with Nigeria, with the goal of "dismantling this murderous group."

Defense spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade reacted to the death toll at the hands of Boko Haram in the town of Baga and the surrounding area 10 days ago. 

"Terrible atrocities have been committed against innocent Nigerians in Baga by the rampaging terrorists who attacked and have been operating in the town since 3 January," Olukolade said at a news conference, according to Reuters. 

"From all available evidence, the number of people who lost their lives during that attack has so far not exceeded about 150 ... including ... terrorists who were bearing arms and got killed in the course of ... battle with troops." 

But Gamandi, the Baga native, said it's not true, the CNN reports.  

"From information we are receiving from residents nearby, not a single Nigerian soldier has shown up in Baga since it was seized by Boko Haram," he said. "It is all propaganda."

Critics have accused President Goodluck Jonathan's government of not doing enough to address the insurgency, which mostly affects opposition strongholds.

Nigeria is holding presidential elections next month, and Jonathan launched his re-election bid at a rally in Lagos last week. 

He did not say a word about the massacres.

On Wednesday, Open Doors, a U.S. based persecution watchdog, released their annual survey, World Watch List 2015, which monitors religious freedom. The study found that Nigeria topped the list of most Christians confirmed to have been killed for their faith, with a staggering 2,484, followed by Central African Republic with 1,088.