Africa

Amnesty International urges probe into troops’ ‘razing’ of Nigerian villages

Lagos
– Amnesty International on Friday called for an investigation into the alleged
burning of villages by Nigerian troops in the volatile northeast following a
recent surge in jihadist attacks.

The rights group said its report
was based on interviews with villagers in Borno state and satellite data
analysis of the incidents.

It said troops razed three
villages along a key road leading to regional capital Maiduguri after forcibly
evicting hundreds of residents from their homes on January 3 and 4.

“These brazen acts of razing
entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing
their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated
as possible war crimes,” said Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty
International Nigeria.

READ | Amnesty decries ‘climate of fear’ for Nigeria journalists

“They repeat a longstanding
pattern of the Nigerian military meting out brutal tactics against the civilian
population,” he said.

Amnesty said it spoke to 12 women
and men forced to flee their homes from the villages near the
Maiduguri-Damaturu road.

They said hundreds of inhabitants
were loaded onto trucks by the military and taken to a camp for displaced
people in Maiduguri.

The rights group said soldiers
arbitrarily detained six men from one of the villages and held them
incommunicado for almost a month.

Rights abuses, extrajudicial executions

There has been a sharp increase
in jihadist violence in the northeast over recent months, with the road linking
to Maiduguri a major focus of attacks since December.

The army said in a statement
carried by local media on January 5 that it had arrested six Boko Haram
suspects and rescued 461 captives “from the clutches of the criminal
insurgents” during an operation in the villages.

The military and central
government have come under increasing pressure to halt the rising bloodshed, especially
after at least 30 people were killed in an attack targeting motorists in a
village along the route over the weekend.

Local and international bodies
have repeatedly accused the Nigerian military of rights abuses, including
arbitrary detention and extrajudicial executions.

READ | Rights in DRC still under threat a year after change, Amnesty says

Prosecutors from the
International Criminal Court (ICC) have conducted preliminary examinations of
the situation in northeast Nigeria but are yet to open a full investigation.

The military has denied the
charges of abuses and insists the insurgents have been largely defeated.

The decade-long uprising has
killed 36 000 people and displaced almost two million in northeast Nigeria.

The jihadists have splintered
into rival camps with one loyal to long-time Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau
and the other aligned with the Islamic State group (ISIS).

 

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