Hundreds of people have been found dead in the north-east Nigerian town of Damasak, apparently victims of the Boko Haram
details emerged on Monday of fresh attacks by the militants.
of decomposing bodies littering the streets of Damasak came as the
president elect, Muhammadu Buhari, denounced the Islamists as a bogus
religious group and vowed a hard line against them when he comes to
power at the end of next month.
North-east Nigeria has been
relentlessly targeted throughout the jihadists’ six-year uprising but
there had been a lull in violence in recent weeks.
A coalition of
troops from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria has claimed major
victories since February, reportedly flushing the militants out of areas
they previously controlled.
The discovery of hundreds of bodies,
including women and children, and the latest attacks underline both the
brutality of the conflict and the continuing threat posed by the
The grim find in Damasak “far outnumbered” that of
about 100 bodies found in a mass grave under a bridge after the town was
liberated in early March by Chadian forces, said local resident Kaumi
“Bodies were found in houses, streets and many more in the
Damasak river which has dried up,” he said, adding the victims were
buried in 20 mass graves at the weekend.
Mohammed Sadiq, another
local who helped in the burials on Saturday, put the death toll at more
than 400 but the Borno state government did not state a precise figure,
giving a toll of “hundreds”.
The victims had been covered by sand
from the encroaching desert, with the burial ordered by the state
authorities, which are looking at the return of thousands of people
displaced by the violence.
Buhari, who takes office on 29 May, was
elected last month on a pledge of a tougher approach to Boko Haram than
the current administration of president Goodluck Jonathan.
former military ruler said in a statement issued by his All Progressives
Congress party: “No religion allows for the killing of children in
school dormitories, in markets and places of worship.
“They have nothing to do with religion. They are terrorists and we are going to deal with them as we deal with terrorists.”
was speaking after Boko Haram fighters stormed the island of Karamga on
Lake Chad in motorised canoes before sunrise on Saturday.
from Niger stationed on the island “were caught off guard” and suffered
heavy losses, said Umar Yerima, a fisherman who witnessed the raid but
escaped by hiding in long grass near the shore.
confirmed the attack but did not provide a death toll. A security source
in Chad said Niger lost 48 soldiers and another 36 were missing.
source, an official from south-eastern Niger’s Diffa region, said the
toll was much higher at 80 dead and some 30 missing.
the militants, now allied with Islamic State, turned their guns onto
civilians after overpowering the troops, firing at people who had jumped
into the water to avoid detection.
Some residents were also burnt alive in their homes, he said.
Friday, suspected Boko Haram fighters disguised as soldiers intercepted
a group of people trying to return to their homes to collect abandoned
food supplies in north-eastern Yobe state.
“The men, 21 of them,
were stopped at Bultaram (village) by gunmen we believe are Boko Haram
who shot them dead,” said Baba Nuhu, an official with the Gujba local
Like many Gujba residents, Nuhu and Haruna Maram, the
brother of one of the victims, have sought refuge from the violence in
Yobe’s capital Damaturu.
“My brother and 20 others wanted to bring
back their grains to augment their lean food supplies,” Maram said.
“Unfortunately, they were killed by (the) same Boko Haram we ran away
Gujba is one of a handful of districts in Yobe that Boko Haram captured during its sweeping offensive from mid-2014.
was also the scene of a gruesome massacre at an agricultural college in
2013 that targeted students sleeping their dormitories.
leaders have warned civilians are still at risk, especially those
returning to remote areas like Gujba where the military’s deployment has
typically been thin.
Many experts agree that Boko Haram is likely
to transition from capturing and holding territory to reverting to a
pattern of hit-and-run attacks.
Analysts say boastings from
regional armies should be treated with caution, as the Islamists are far
from defeated and can easily regroup, especially if there is a let-up
in the military pressure.