April 24, 2013 – U.S. Condemns Baga, Borno Massacre; ACN, CPC Warn Against Killings
THERE was outrage yesterday over the killing of 185 people in Baga, a border community in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State.
Among those who condemned the wanton destruction of lives and properties were the United States, North’s elders, the National Assembly and political parties.
Patrick Ventrell, the acting Deputy State Department spokesman, said: “The United States thus condmen the violence that took the lives of so many innocent civilians in Baga, Borno State.”
The Senate described the killings of hundreds of Nigerians as unacceptable and mandated its Committees on Defence, Police and National Security and Intelligence to investigate the incident.
It gave the committee members 14 days to table their report before the plenary for consideration.
The Senate’s decision followed a motion sponsored by Senator Maina Ma’Aji Lawan (Borno North), who was in tears while narrating the damage to his senatorial district by Boko Haram insurgency.
Northern Elders urged President Jonathan to institute a judicial commission of inquiry into the massacre.
Its spokesman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, who led a group of elders to the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) secretariat in Kaduna, said probing the incident alone would not address the problem.
He blamed the President for allowing the military to take over peace-keeping operations.
According to him, soldiers are trained for war and not to deal with the civil society.
Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) spokesman Lai Mohammed warned the military against extra-judicial killings.
The ACN said: “Without jumping to any conclusion on what really transpired in Baga, we hasten to say that the military, in fighting an asymmetric war against insurgents, must ensure a strict observance of its rules of engagement to avoid the kind of deaths that were recorded in the border town.
“No matter what defence the military may put forward, the mass deaths and destruction in Baga during the JTF-insurgents’ clash portray the Nigerian military as having little or no respect for human rights and the sanctity of lives. This is not a flattering portrayal for a military that has made its mark in global peacekeeping.”
The party berated the Federal Government for waiting for almost 48 hours before responding to the situation.
The House of Representatives echoed the Northern Elders as it called for a commission of inquiry.
Also yesterday, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) deployed officials to assist in the provision of medical reliefs and aid to the affected people.
Senator Bukola Saraki described the killings as “gruesome” and demanded for an inquest into the activities of the Joint Task Force (JTF) operating in the area.
The Military High Command began the auditing of the MJTF deployed in the border town.
According to the Red Cross, besides the 187 people feared killed, 77 others were injured. More than 300 homes were destroyed. The military said it confirmed 26 deaths.
The National Coordinator of the service organisation, Mr. Umar Mariaga, told AFP that Red Cross officials were still struggling to reach Baga, where the security situation remains uncertain.
“We are making efforts to get clearance from the security agents to get in and assist the victims of the violence,” he said.
A resident, who pleaded to remain anonymous, said much of the town was deserted after the clashes last Friday. He said the confrontation forced thousands to flee the battle grounds.
“Baga is still under military siege. The town is at a standstill, with little food and water, which has forced even those of us that stayed behind to start leaving,” the resident told AFP
The military operation in Baga, a town located about 180 kilometres North of Maiduguri, the state capital, left almost 200 dead.
Reports said the operation was jointly carried out by JTF personnel, in conjunction with troops from Niger and Chad.
Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) Brig.-Gen. Austin Edokpaye, who visited the troubled community on Sunday, alleged that insurgents used heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the Baga confrontation.
The MJTF was established by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger to maintain security at the border areas.
According to him, the insurgents launched an unprovoked attack on soldiers.
Gen. Edokpaye, who briefed Governor Kashim Shettima during an assessment tour of Baga on Sunday, said: “We lost an officer during the attack on our men on patrol. We received intelligence that some suspected Boko Haram members usually pray and hide arms at a particular mosque in town. It was around that mosque that our men were attacked with several of them injured and an officer died.
“When we reinforced and returned to the scene, the terrorists came out with heavy firepower, including (rocket-propelled grenades), which usually has a conflagration effect.”
There were conflicting figures yesterday on the death toll, with some accounts saying as many as 300 people may have been killed.
A council official, Lawal Kole, told the governor during the visit that at least 185 bodies were found and buried but residents said the figure was a far-cry. They claimed yesterday that more bodies were recovered from the bush.
A resident, who spoke on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa radio said: “We are still searching and waiting for those who got missing… . Anybody who says the number of the dead is not up to 300 he is not a resident of Baga.”
However, the Defence Headquarters in Abuja said it could confirm the death of only 26 people, including the deceased soldier. The violence broke out when gunmen attacked residents of Baga, forcing security forces to move in after receiving a report, the military said.
Military authorities said the troops surrounded a mosque belonging to Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad (Boko Harm) members, who had earlier allegedly killed an officer.
Hundreds of people have fled the town into neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Christian clerics yesterday lamented the flow of weapons into the country.
“We must ask how these weapons reach Nigeria,” said Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, the president of the Episcopal Conference, in an apparent reference to the arms used by Boko Haram.
He said: “While the most sophisticated ones come from abroad, in Nigeria there are clandestine laboratories manufacturing homemade weapons and Improvised Explosive Devices.
Also reacting to the death toll, Father Evaristus Bassey, the National Director of Caritas Nigeria, said: “Now we even have a higher level of weaponry, much more than what they were using before.”
The cleric said he was surprised by the clash in light of ongoing amnesty talks.
[Source: The Nation]