The human rights group Amnesty International released satellite photos last week that it said showed widespread destruction in a number of villages and a town in northern Nigeria, after what the group described as Boko Haram’s “deadliest massacre”.
Fighters with the militant Islamist group “killed hundreds of people” in the assault, media and refugees fleeing the area reported.
A local politician told the BBC the death toll was more than 2,000 people, but Nigeria’s military downplayed those accounts, saying no more than 150 were killed – and that many of the dead were Boko Haram fighters.
Photos show that more than 3,700 buildings – including homes, schools and clinics – were burned down between January 2 and January 7 in and around the remote town of Baga, reports said. The photos, Amnesty noted, corroborate accounts from many refugees who fled the area.
The attack on Baga began when Boko Haram arrived in a convoy of pickup trucks carrying heavy machine guns, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The five-day-long rampage came to light as refugees flooded into major cities, bringing stories of how Boko Haram fighters had gone house to house killing everyone, even small children, while chasing down people who tried to escape.
The massacre and the ongoing Islamist insurgency have become a major political issue ahead of the country’s presidential election in February.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram have also been raiding villages in neighbouring Cameroon, kidnapping up to 80 people, mostly children. Chad has sent soldiers and tanks to the area to help fight against the jihadists, while Ghana’s President John Mahama says talks will begin soon about the creation of an African multinational force to combat the growing threat.
By Mark Kennedy