Nigerian army kills 42 Boko Haram fighters

2015-01-16 06:45

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The Nigerian army has killed 42 fighters from the radical Islamist group Boko Haram while repelling its attempt to take over the northeastern town of Biu.

The Boko Haram members – who were killed on Tuesday – included 15 Chadians, said Mike Omeri, coordinator of the National Information Centre. It was the first official release of the death toll numbers.

Omeri said five insurgents were also captured while fleeing the town.

“Those found to have conducted any crime against the state will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the Premium Times quoted Omeri as saying.

It was not known if the army had suffered casualties.

President Goodluck Jonathan meanwhile visited Maiduguri, which has often been targeted by Boko Haram, telling soldiers that the government had not shied away from its responsibility of protecting Nigerians.

“In terms of equipment and logistics, we have already made considerable progress since the insurgency started and we will continue to improve in that regard until your operations are successfully concluded,” he said.

Jonathan’s visit was seen by analysts as a bid for votes in next month’s general elections.

“Nigerians have been dying on a daily basis in three states of the northeast being battered by Boko Haram, without the president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces making out time to visit any of these places,” journalist Mohammed Salihu said by phone from Maiduguri.

“Nigerians are no fools; this visit now does not impress anyone,” he added.

Satellite images released by the rights group Amnesty International indicated that recent attacks by Boko Haram may have killed many more people than the government has said.

The government says about 150 people were killed in attacks that started in Baga in the northeast on January 3, downplaying reports that put the death toll at 2 000.

The images published by Amnesty showed that the neighbouring towns of Baga or Doron Baga were largely destroyed, with more than 3 700 structures damaged or burnt down.

“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns,” with Doron Baga almost completely wiped off the map, said Daniel Eyre, a Nigeria researcher with Amnesty.

Interviews with witnesses, officials and human rights activists suggest that Boko Haram shot hundreds of civilians.

“There were bodies everywhere we looked,” one woman told the rights group. Another witness said the insurgents killed even small children and a woman who was in labour.

Eyre said the images suggested a “much higher” death toll than that given by the Nigerian government.

The attacks sent thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamist state, killed thousands of people in northern Nigeria last year alone.

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