15 Jan 2015

New satellite images reveal devastation of Boko Haram massacre

How many died? We may never know. Boko Haram militants swept through the town of Baga, in north eastern Nigeria, a few days before the Kouachi brothers murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris. The news took several days to emerge – there are no journalists in Baga, no people taking pictures, no independent witnesses, no mobile phone signal, just terrified people fleeing for their lives.
Satellite pictures obtained by Amnesty International show the towns of Baga and Doron Baga on January 2 – before the attack – and five days later, 3700 structures have been damaged or destroyed. According to Daniel Eyre, researcher for Amnesty International, who has spent the last week compiling eye-witness accounts, gunmen went house to house, pulling people out and shooting them. Residents of the town fled into the bush, but Boko Haram men were waiting for them there, hiding in the trees, and shooting anyone who passed.

Eye-witnesses talk of hundreds of bodies in the streets, but they were fleeing too fast to stop and count. Government officials at first were silent and then came out with contradictory numbers. A local official told the BBC that as many as 2000 may have died. An army spokesman put it at 150. The BBC Lagos correspondent, Will Ross, on whom many Nigerians as well as foreigners rely for news, has found piecing together a reliable account of what happened well nigh impossible.

Read more: Boko Haram attack survivors flee as West criticised

According to Daniel Eyre, Boko Haram are targetting towns and communities where Joint Task Forces have been established – civilian militia who assist the army, or, more often than not, replace the army when soldiers flee.

“But it’s important to note that Boko Haram kill all civilians, not just the militia,” he said.

Alexis Okeowo, one of the best and bravest journalists in Nigeria, has also reflected on the impossibility of getting reliable death tolls from a place where journalists risk being killed or kidnapped

She is, however, sure that this situation is not inevitable.

‘The sad fact is that Boko Haram could have been defeated by now, by a more competent and more determined Nigerian government,’ she writes.

The government, and most Nigerian journalists, are more interested in the forthcoming elections than in saving their countrypeople from the ruthless zealots of Boko Haram.

The Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has until now said nothing about the killings in Baga – although somehow he found the time to express his sympathy to the French people for their loss. It’s as if the Nigerian government thinks that silence will make it not so – yet vast swathes of northern Nigeria are now controlled by Boko Haram and thousands of people are fleeing across the borders to Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Government ministers don’t want to talk about their cowardly and corrupt senior army officers and terrified troops who don’t fight but flee. Much easier to talk about what’s happening in Paris.

“Terrible incident. Our deepest sympathies to the journalists and their families. We are one with France in mourning,” tweeted Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Finance Minister adding – of course – the hash tag #JeSuisCharlie.

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6 reader comments

  1. Neil Dickson says:

    Why isn’t anything being done about these mass murderers? Oh aye, its Africa, I forgot human lives weren’t worth the same than us in Europe. This is disgusting, its ridiculous nothing is being done to stop these killers, and where’s the bloody UN? I thought they had an office in Nairobi?

  2. Gaby (Taylor) Harrington says:

    We wring our hands and agonise. We wrestle with our consciences over what should have been done, what could still be done, what will ensue if we do nothing? But what can be done? Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Gaza, Eastern DCR, Niger, Mali … and others. We are numbed and paralysed before the enormity of the bloodshed and brutality shredding before our eyes the very roots of civilised society, perpetrated by brain-washed and disillusioned youth, many feeding themselves a diet of screen violence. But all this was created. It didn’t happen by magic. We need to look back and try to understand what actually happened and why. Empty rhetoric is not going to sort it.

    There are apparently tens of thousands of armed and murderous zealots out there (and probably some here too) who are armed to the teeth and hell bent on the total destruction of everything and everyone not in their camp. The West can’t put a stop to this alone, nor can the individual governments of the countries most affected. Are we, who are after all the majority on the planet horrified by the activities of these barbarians, able to get our collective act together, avoid squabbling like rats in a sack, put our hands in our (fast emptying) pockets and mount the kind of riposte the situation demands? Somehow, I doubt it – but I still hope.

    Meantime, if we act today, we might be able to forestall something similar happening in our back yards if we pay close attention to our children and how we shape them for what we hope will be a productive and peaceful future; although, to follow the thought through, we also have to face the fact that the planet is overpopulated and becoming exponentially more so, whilst we busy ourselves inventing technological wonders designed to make us all obsolete. I hope somebody cleverer than me is making plans for what we are all going to do when we get up in the morning other than seek the excitement of a cause.

    15 January 2015

    1. Dave Sparrow says:

      Thank you for saying what I wanted to but more eloquently than I ever could.

  3. Jill Oberlin-Harris says:

    You have a point here. These young boys and men do not have a great education, they do not have job, they do not have much of a future to look forward to, so why not join a war and have a bit of fun shooting and killing, raping and murdering? They have lost their role as hunters and tribal warriors. The women do all the labour in fields, bear children endlessly, and carry water, wash, cook, clean and provide sexual services from a young age to men at their whim. They have little knowledge of human biology, birth control or the world population problem.

    The men in many peaceful African countries like Gambia (which recently had an attempted coup) lie about under trees, play board games, smoke, some drink illicitly (if they can afford to buy it, which most can’t)and just hang around. What hope is there for a good life in a dry and dusty place, especially with global warming reducing cultivable areas? They think it is better to have a short, exciting life than to die of poverty and boredom.

  4. titus percy says:

    the corrupt nigerian government official are not releasin enough information to help in d stoppin of this menace n bloodthristy, demonized,brainwashed and montrous set of animals. The same pple who disscused the strategy of overcoming this menace are the same one leaking information to this terrorists n infact sponsoring them.
    A survivor said they were actually overpowerin d insurgent when a member of the MNJTF told them to retreat a bit dat an airforce fighter jet would take over from them, the fighter jet never appeared n reinforcement for the insurgent poured in and overcome the local vigilantes. Cant you smell something fishy there?

  5. fifi louche kumo says:

    I’m tired of Nigerians because we have very bad habits. We are a bunch of people who suffer from chronically low self esteem and we have passivistic tendencies. Instead of fighting fire with fire we rely on the power of prayer and the majesty of the spirit world to save us. It was never enough and right now it won’t ever be enough. Here we are at the mercy of self destructive forces created in the name of Religion. As loud as the South shouts to glorify The Name Of The Lord to be noticed individually and blessed for their efforts, we must shout louder on an international worldy level. We must shout for attention, for blessings and for victory. For we are worthy. We are worthy of support, guidance, assistance and aid. We are worthy of peace.

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