SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- Boko Haram killed hundreds of people and burned down almost an entire town this month, Amnesty International said Thursday, citing satellite photos to offer the clearest indication to date of the damage the Nigerian insurgency wrought.
More than 3,700 buildings, including homes, schools, and clinics, were torched by Boko Haram in and around the remote town of Baga during an assault that began on Jan. 3, the human rights group said. Satellite photos showed the entire town of Doron-Baga, which is next to Baga, had been effectively burned down.
Amnesty said the pictures corroborate the stories of refugees who have spoken of many hundreds killed in the remote area, which is dangerous and inaccessible for journalists and aid workers. Residents who fled have described walking through a countryside littered with bodies.
For a week, the question of how many people died there has been the subject of a back-and-forth between Nigeria’s press and its government. Emotional and hungry residents who have lost their family members and walked for days have told reporters that as many as 2,000 people were killed. It is impossible to verify those numbers, given the risks in traveling to the town.
The army says at most 150 people died there, many of them members of Boko Haram. “A lot of speculations and conjectures have been peddled by a section of the press,” it said in a statement on Monday.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking a second four-year term next month, in an election whose biggest issue is his handling of Nigeria’s five-year-long war with Boko Haram. The campaign has put pressure on Nigeria’s military to show gains in that struggle.
On Wednesday, the military said it had conducted an airstrike outside the town of Biu. A local vigilante confirmed as much, saying about 100 Boko Haram fighters had driven into the town on motorcycles, storming a barracks, before the arrival of a fighter jet prompted them to flee. About 40 members of the sect died, the vigilante, Garba Rabiu, said.