Moral Low Ground


Boko Haram Accused of ‘Crime Against Humanity’ in Nigeria as Satellite Images Reveal ‘Catastrophic’ Scope of Massacre

Before and after satellite images released by Amnesty International show the staggering scope of destruction  caused by Boko Haram's massacre in Baga, Nigeria.

Before and after satellite images released by Amnesty International show the staggering scope of destruction caused by Boko Haram’s massacre in Baga, Nigeria. (DigitalGlobe)

US Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram of “crimes against humanity” on Thursday after the human rights group Amnesty International released satellite images showing widespread devasation caused by massacres in two northeastern Nigerian towns.

“What they have done… is a crime against humanity, nothing less,” said Kerry in Bulgaria. He called Boko Haram an “evil” group which poses a serious threat “not just in Nigeria and the region but to all of our values.” Kerry, who sat down with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Sofia, raised the possibility of “a special initiative with respect to Nigeria and with respect to Boko Haram.”

“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.

“Of all Boko Haram assaults analysed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet. It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.”

Hundreds, and perhaps as many as 2,000, residents of Baga and Doron Baga, two towns on the shores of Lake Chad in Borno state, were killed by Boko Haram fighters last week. Witnesses described the horrific brutality of the attackers, who murdered “indiscriminately,” including small children and a woman in labor.

“They killed so many people,” a man in his 50s told Amnesty. “I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing.”

The number of victims has yet to be precisely determined. International media reports have placed the number of dead at as high as 2,000. But the Nigerian government, which has often been accused of underreporting casualties caused by Boko Haram attacks, claims only 150 died.

Before and after satellite images of the two towns reveal more than 3,700 damaged or destroyed buildings. In densely-populated Baga, some 620 structures were damaged or destroyed by fire. In neighboring Doron Baga, more than 3,100 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Boko Haram often targets towns and villages it believes are cooperating with the Nigerian government and security forces. According to Amnesty:

Towns that formed state-sponsored militia groups known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) have suffered particularly brutal attacks. Civilian JTF groups were active in Baga and a senior military official confirmed to Amnesty International confidentially that at times the military took these members on operations to attack Boko Haram positions. A witness told Amnesty International that during the attack on Baga that he heard Boko Haram fighters saying they were searching for Civilian JTF members, as they went house to house shooting men of fighting age.

The Washington Post reports Baga and Doron Baga were likely attacked because they were among the last places in Borno state still under government control.

Amnesty is calling the killings the “largest and most destructive” massacre committed by Boko Haram since it launched its bid to establish an independent Islamic caliphate in 2009. Some 13,000 people are believed to have been killed by the group. The latest massacre occurred ahead of next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections and is believed to have been a bid to undermine the vote.

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