54 soldiers sentenced to death for refusing to fight

2014-12-18 06:23

A court martial in Nigeria sentenced 54 soldiers to death yesterday for refusing to fight the Boko Haram radical Islamist group, a media report said.

The troops will be executed by firing squad, the Nigeria Tribune reported.

The soldiers declined in August to take part in an operation against extremist separatist group Boko Haram.

They faced an array of charges including mutiny and cowardice.

Four soldiers were aquitted.

Boko Haram, which translates to “Western education is forbidden”, has said it wants to establish an Islamic state. The group has killed more than 4 000 people in northern Nigeria this year.

Twelve soldiers were sentenced to death in September for mutiny and attempted murder of the commanding officer in the counter-insurgency. They blamed him for the deaths of an unknown number of soldiers ambushed and killed after they were ordered to drive at night on a road frequently attacked by the militants.

Troops regularly complain that they are outgunned by Boko Haram, they are not paid in full and they are abandoned on the battlefield without enough ammunition or food.

Boko Haram has seized a string of towns and villages and in August declared an Islamic caliphate along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.

In recent weeks, Special Forces have been deployed and have recaptured at least four towns with help from air raids, traditional hunters and vigilantes.

The turnaround comes as Nigerians prepare for February 14 presidential elections that are expected to be the most closely contested since decades of military dictatorship ended in 1999. President Goodluck Jonathan is being challenged by former military dictator General Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari is being touted by an opposition coalition as more likely to succeed in curbing the insurgency and in fighting corruption that Jonathan is accused of fuelling.

Thousands of people have been killed in the five-year-old Islamic uprising that has driven some 1.3 million people from their homes, with tens of thousands fleeing across borders into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

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