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Sunday 21 September 2014

Boko Haram militants 'kill 200'

Published 05/06/2014 | 11:52

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Boko Haram militants are reported to have killed at least 200 in villages in north-east Nigeria (AP)

Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers have killed at least 200 civilians in three communities in north-eastern Nigeria and the military failed to intervene even though it was warned an attack was imminent, witnesses said.

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A community leader who witnessed the killings on Monday said residents of the Gwoza district in Borno state had pleaded for the military to send soldiers to protect the area after they heard that militants were about to attack, but help did not arrive.

It took a few days for survivors to get word of the massacres to Maiduguri, the provincial capital, because travel on the roads is dangerous and phone connections are poor.

The slaughter was confirmed by Mohammed Ali Ndume, a senator representing Borno whose home town is Gwoza, and by a senior security official in Maiduguri.

Militants of Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, have been taking over villages in the north east, killing and terrorising civilians and political leaders as the Islamic fighters make a comeback from a year-long military offensive aimed at crushing them.

The death toll from Monday's attacks is among the highest. Thousands of people have been killed in the five-year insurgency, more than 2,000 so far this year, and an estimated 750,000 Nigerians have been driven from their homes.

Nigeria's military has insisted that the big influx of troops and a year-old state of emergency in three states which gives them the power to detain suspects, take over buildings and lock down any area has the extremists on the run.

But while Boko Haram has in large part been pushed out of cities in the north east, they have been seizing villages in the semi-arid region where they once held sway, staking their claim by hoisting their black flags with white Arabic lettering, and making large swaths of Nigeria no-go regions for the military.

The emir of Gwoza was killed in a Boko Haram ambush on his convoy last week. Emirs are religious and traditional rulers who have been targeted for speaking out against Boko Haram's extremism.

Borno governor Kashim Shettima travelled on Saturday to Gwoza to pay his respects to the fallen emir and was quoted as saying it was a terrifying ride.

"If I say I was not petrified travelling through that ... road to Gwoza I would be lying, because that road had been designated a no-go area for about two months now due to the incessant attacks and killings that occur there," the governor was quoted as saying by the Information Nigeria website.

A local journalist who was in the convoy that was escorted by 150 soldiers counted at least 16 towns and villages that were deserted along the 85-mile route, according to the local media report.

The militants arrived in pick-up trucks - commonly used by the military - and told civilians in the villages of Danjara, Agapalwa and Antagara that they were soldiers "and we are here to protect you all".

It was the same tactic used by the group when they kidnapped more than 300 girls from a school in the town of Chibok on April 15.

After people gathered in the centre on the orders of the militants, "they begin to shout 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar' ... then they begin to fire at the people continuously for a very long time until all that gathered were all dead", said a witness.

Press Association

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