Human Rights Watchdog Accuses Nigerian Military of Burning Villages and Displacing Civilians in Fight Against Boko Haram

The Nigerian military has been accused by a leading human rights watchdog of razing villages and displacing hundreds of residents in its quest to defeat extremist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State. The military, however, has contested those allegations.

In a report based on interviews with impacted villagers in Nigeria’s Borno state, Amnesty International stated last Friday that the Nigerian military has burned and forcibly displaced entire villages in response to a rise in extremist attacks in the region.

The United Kingdom-based nongovernmental organization reports that the Nigerian military also arbitrarily detained six men from the displaced villages and held them incommunicado for nearly one month before being released on Jan. 30.

“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,” Amnesty International Nigeria Director Osai Ojigho said in a statement.

“They repeat a longstanding pattern of the Nigerian military’s brutal tactics against the civilian population. Forces allegedly responsible for such violations must be suspended immediately and brought to justice.”

The alleged military action comes as Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province have carried out a number of deadly attacks in northeastern Nigeria since December 2019.

During a recent research mission to the Borno state, Amnesty International interviewed 12 women and men who were forced to flee from their homes in three villages near the Maiduguri-Damaturu road on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4.

Residents from the village of Bukarti recounted how “scores” of Nigerian soldiers arrived in the late morning of Jan. 3.

“They said soldiers went house to house and to surrounding farmland, forcing everyone to gather under a tree and by a graveyard between Bukarti and the main road,” the report explains. “Soldiers also rounded up people from neighboring Matiri and brought them to the same area.”

“At around 3 p.m. on Jan. 3, residents said soldiers demanded that everyone walk from the village to the main road where they were forced to board large trucks. Witnesses claim that as they were loaded into the trucks, some of the soldiers returned to Bukarti. The witnesses said they then saw their village burning.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith