60 people killed, Hunters now to fight Boko Haram
A report by Amnesty International said at least 60 people were killed on Monday, 28 January in yet another attack on Rann, a village close to the Cameroonian boarder in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, the bloodiest this year. “Witnesses told us that Nigerian soldiers abandoned their posts the day before the attack, demonstrating the authorities’ utter failure to protect civilians,” Amnesty International’s Nigeria director Osai Ojigho said in a statement on Friday 1 February.
The statement by Amnesty added that “at around 9am on 28 January, a group of Boko Haram fighters arrived on motorcycles. They set houses ablaze and killed those left behind. They also chased after those who attempted to escape and killed some people outside the town. Eleven bodies were found within Rann town, and 49 bodies were found outside.”
Reuters said though Nigerian troops had returned to Rann, after the first attack in mid January, they had support from a Multi-National Joint Task Force made of Cameroonian soldiers and soon after the Cameroonians went back across the border, the Nigerian soldiers also because they were smaller in number and lacked weapons or equipment,
“Using satellite imagery, we have also been able to confirm the mass burning of structures as Boko Haram unleashed a massive assault on Rann, most of which is now destroyed. This attack on civilians, who have already been displaced by the bloody conflict, may amount to possible war crime, and those responsible must be brought to justice.” Amnesty said.
“Boko Haram has consistently and deliberately targeted civilians in Rann, which makes the Nigerian authorities failure to protect people all the more unacceptable. The authorities on both sides of the border must provide the supplies and safety that these people require. The Cameroonian authorities must also desist from forcing people to return until conditions are safe and they choose to do so voluntarily,” Ojigho added.
Kashim Shettima, the Borno State Governor in northeastern Nigeria has told the Army that the state government will be commission local hunters and vigilance groups to join in fighting the radical Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram.
The Governor, speaking to Maj.- Gen. Johnson Akinroluyo, who the theatre Commander Operation Lafiya Dole, the military force fighting the Jihadi sect, said, ‘‘In the next couple of days, we will be launching our own component of local hunters to reinforce your team. We have already concluded arrangement to support them with about 30 vehicles to motivate them.”
The governor noted that with the coming general elections in February, ‘‘there will be a lot of mischief by anti-democratic elements. So, we believe that their presence will add to your gigantic effort at restoring peace,’’ Shettima said.
The Nigerian government had said severally, that the Jihadi sect had been defeated and only mopping operations have been on going. But the spike in attacks by the Islamists and the death toll of military officers killed in the last three months had risen to over 200 soldiers.
Hassan John is West Africa editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos