Amnesty Int’l: Military burning down villages in its fight against Boko Haram

Global human rights watch-dog, Amnesty International yesterday accused the Nigerian military of razing villages; as well as forcibly displacing hundreds of residents in its fight against insurgency in the North-East.

The group also alleged that the military’s action was a response to a recent escalation in attacks by the terror group, Boko Haram, citing interviews with affected villagers in Borno State and satellite data analysis to back up its claims. Furthermore, Amnesty International accused the Nigerian military of arbitrarily detaining six men from the displaced villages.

It held that this continued a pattern of human rights violations documented against the military; noting that this had been a feature of the decade-long war against insurgency in the North East. Equally important, Amnesty International alleges that the men were held incommunicado for almost a month and subjected to illtreatment.

They were eventually released on January 30. In a statement issued by Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said: “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.

“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 Nigerian military, often accused of human rights violations; is yet to respond to the latest allegations by Amnesty International. The human rights body revealed that Boko Haram has carried out increasingly deadly attacks; particularly along the axis between Maiduguri and Damaturu, the capitals of Borno and Yobe states since December 2019.

Further, it stated that in response, the Nigerian military had resorted to unlawful tactics; some of which it claims may amount to war crimes. Specifically, it disclosed that Nigerian soldiers burnt down three villages in Borno State after forcing hundreds of residents to leave their homes in January. Also, Amnesty revealed that it interviewed 12 victims and reviewed fire data from remote satellite sensing; which indicates several large fires burning on and around January 2, 2020 in that area “Satellite imagery of Bukarti, Ngariri, and Matiri shows almost every structure was razed,’’ it stated.

Additionally, Amnesty International quoted residents who alleged that Nigerian 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. Also, soldiers were accused of rounding up people from neighbouring Matiri and bringing them to the same area.

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