Tag Archives: Nigeria

South Africa – Defence Minister says arrest SA mercenaries training anti-Boko forces

news24
By: Carien du Plessis, City Press

Johannesburg – Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says the “mercenaries” from South Africa helping to train Nigerian soldiers to fight Boko Haram should be arrested on their return, according to City Press.

Briefing journalists on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula said: “The police have a responsibility to ensure that, when they come back, those people are arrested and the [National Prosecutions Authority] has a responsibility to charge them. There are consequences for going out of the country and provide any form of military assistance as a mercenary, not as part of the deployment by government,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said law enforcement officials should take care to gather enough information to prosecute these “mercenaries” in order to make an example of them.

“It should be that you’re doing it so that you can secure a conviction so that it sends a message to all of the South Africans who are going around as mercenaries,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said in the case of the South African security company Executive Outcomes deploying its private soldiers to conflict zones outside of South Africa, the prosecuting authority didn’t have enough information to secure a conviction.

That should not happen again, she said.

Beeld newspaper on Monday reported that a team of about 100 soldiers have gone to Nigeria – at that government’s request – to help train soldiers to hit back at the terrorist group which has claimed responsibility for attacks in which thousands of people have died over the past few years.

A member of the South African team said they weren’t mercenaries, but helped with training to skill Nigerian soldiers.

The first goal would be to stop the terrorists’ bloody raids, and also to free the remainder of the 200 Chibok girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram last year.

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Tuesday expressed her “dismay” about South African ex-soldiers who have been contracted as experts to help the Nigerian army fight Boko Haram.

“We always discourage South Africans to enter the fray in a situation like that,” she told journalists on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, ahead of the African Union summit there.

No SANDF members deployed

Mapisa-Nqakula today said no members of the SA National Defence Force had been deployed in Nigeria, and they had also not received any requests from the Nigerians for help or for weapons.

She said she didn’t want to refer to those involved in helping the Nigerian army as ex-soldiers.

“I want to refer to them as mercenaries. They are mercenaries whether they are training, skilling the Nigerian defence force, or scouting for them. The point is they have no business to be there,” she said.

It is a crime under South Africa’s Foreign Military Assistance Act to get involved in conflicts in other countries outside of official SA government efforts.

Mapisa-Nqakula said when private security officers from South Africa got into trouble in Iraq, it fell on the South African government to go and help them. “But in fact they had no mandate from government,” she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula said she did not know whether SA had engaged with Nigeria about the issue on a diplomatic level.

The Boko Haram issue was set to come up for discussion at the AU’s Peace and Security Council, which meets on Thursday night.

On Wednesday there was talk in Nigerian circles of President Goodluck Jonathan not attending the summit because his elections campaign for the 14 February elections was at a crucial stage.

Nigeria – APC accuses Jonathan’s PDP of planning to scuttle

unch

Presidency, PDP plotting to scuttle polls – APC

National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Lai Mohammed

 The All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation has raised the alarm over an alleged plot by the Peoples Democratic Party and the President Jonathan-led government, to scuttle the 2015 general elections.

This was contained in a statement signed by the Director, Media and Publicity of the campaign, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja, on Thursday.

Shehu disclosed that the APC had it on good authority that the kernel of the plan was to use the subterfuge of the frivolous litigation by some people to get a court pronouncement to disqualify the APC candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

According to him, the PDP was seeking to build a case to the effect that Buhari lied under oath in saying that the military had his certificate, whereas the military had denied being in possession of the document.

Shehu revealed that the counter-arguments by the APC’s candidate’s counsel would not matter because a particular Federal High judge had been prepared to do the hatchet job.

The APC noted that it was the PDP’s calculation that this wicked pronouncement of disqualification of the APC candidate would precipitate spontaneous violent protests across the country.

Shehu said this scenario would then make President Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP candidate in the 2015 general election, to declare a six-month state of emergency across the land.

He alleged that the three-week long strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria was embarked upon on the prodding of the PDP-led Federal Government as a way to stymie any higher court from upturning the lower court pronouncement which ruled on President Jonathan’s eligibility to contest the February 14 election.

Similarly, the APC campaign organisation said the same trade union had been encouraged to open the court to allow for this court pronouncement in disqualifying Buhari from contesting the election.

The APC campaign organisation said, “We are aware of the intense desperation of the PDP-led Federal Government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in desiring to retain political power at all costs despite his and his party’s overwhelming rejection by the Nigerian people, ahead of the 2015 general elections.

“We have brought this wicked plot of the PDP-led government to the attention of Nigerians, from whom any government derives its legitimacy. Nigeria cannot be thrown into chaos because of the selfish and callous desire of a tiny cabal to goad the Nigerian people into its destructive path.

“The governance of the Nigerian people by any person or group of persons must have the assent of the Nigerian people.”

The APC campaign organisation called on the international community to prevail on this obviously agitated Presidency not to plunge the Nigerian state into avoidable and intractable crisis.

But in response, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation slammed the APC for allegedly whipping up sentiments and inciting violence ahead of the scheduled February 14 and 28 general elections.

The Director of Media and Publicity of the PDPPCO, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.

He also alleged that the APC’s penchant for propaganda and threat of violence was mind-boggling.

Fani-Kayode said there was no iota of truth in the claims by the opposition that the PDP and the Presidency were planning to impose a state of emergency and postpone the elections.

He said, “We are not, at all, surprised about the false alarm raised by the APC that the PDP-controlled Federal Government is planning to declare a six-month state of emergency across the land. It is characteristic of the opposition to make spurious allegations in the build-up to the scheduled February general elections.

“The APC’s penchant for propaganda and threat of violence is mind-boggling. The narrative weaved together by the opposition party is disingenuous and it shows how desperate it has become in its impossible bid to dislodge the PDP-controlled Federal Government.

“It is clear that the APC now knows full well that a crushing defeat awaits it at the February 14 presidential election; otherwise why would it embark on this flight of illusion about a purported plot by the PDP to precipitate violence prelude to the declaration of a state of emergency?

“We state categorically that the PDP is ready for the February 14 presidential election and all subsequent elections; and is therefore not a party to any imagined ploy to postpone or cancel the election.”

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – army says Amnesty report on Baga and Monguno inaccurate

Premium Times

Amnesty International’s report on Baga, Monguno inaccurate, unfair – Nigerian military

Baga satellite image

 

The Nigerian military has hit back at Amnesty International’s claim that it ignored repeated warnings of an impending attack on Baga and Monguno and also failed to take measures to protect the civilian population of the surrounding towns and villages describing the allegation as “misleading”, “inaccurate and unfair.”

On Wednesday, Amnesty International [AI] released a statement claiming information it obtained from a senior military officer and evidence gathered from other sources revealed that commanders at the military base in Baga informed the military headquarters in Abuja of a looming attack on the town and repeatedly asked for reinforcement but the military hierarchy failed to respond accordingly.

Amnesty’s claim also tallies with PREMIUM TIMES exclusive report that though the army was aware of an impending attack the base was not adequately prepared when the terrorists attacked.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Director for Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, a Brigadier General, said AI’s claim is a continuation of the organisation’s use of the unfortunate incident to discredit the military’s counter terrorism efforts.

Mr. Olukolade said the protection of civilians is the essence of the military’s counter terrorism activities and that the troops were adequately prepared and engaged the insurgents in all the instances mentioned by AI.

“Being an area of operation where terrorists are known to be ever looking for the slightest opportunity to attack and perpetrate heinous atrocities, Nigerian troops are conversant with the need to maintain the highest form of alertness always,” he said.

“Every available information is factored into the intelligence that drives every engagement or encounter in any part of the mission area. This standard has not only been sustained but has been incrementally enhanced in terms of capacity, troop’s deployment, coordination, troop’s mobility and protection as well as logistics.

“Regular patrols, surveillance, pursuit and actual combat engagement to curtail or forestall terrorists’ activities and threats are also conducted. This has substantially succeeded in preventing, frustrating or minimising the effect of terrorists’ dastardly intentions and actions. This also accounts for why the main intention of terrorists attack on Maiduguri and other places could not succeed.”

Mr. Olukolade, therefore, said AI’s conclusion was misleading adding that if the organisation had tried to confirm the information it got, it would have found out that it was misleading at best.

“The misleading conclusions by Amnesty International could have been avoided if they had made meaningful efforts to verify the inciting allegations. Whatever be the intention, the allegations, at best can only constitute a distractive and misleading commentary or interpretation of the terrorists’ activities, the efforts to curb them and the actual situation on the ground in Nigeria.,” he said

“The Nigerian security forces remain willing and capable of discharging the responsibility of defending the country’s territory and people,” he maintained.

Nigeria – Nigeria release 190 in Yobe

Reuters
(Reuters) – Nigerian Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram released about 190 captives, who returned to their community in the northeast state of Yobe between Friday and Saturday, while other people were still being held, local and state officials said.

“The people will be presented to the government tomorrow (Sunday) for assistance as their houses were set ablaze when the insurgents attacked the village, Katarko in the Gujba local council,” Goni Mali, a community leader of Katarko said.

Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for the state governor, said the militants released young men, women and children who were kidnapped on Jan 6. At least 20 other people were still being held.

Boko Haram has been waging a five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of the country. Borno state is the worst hit followed by Adamawa and Yobe.

Some of the women who were released said the militants let them go after they resisted following the rules of the group.

“They say since you have refused to accept our mode of religious teachings, go and follow your ‘Infidels’, we hereby order you to leave,” one of the women said.

The group frequently raids towns and kidnaps young men, women and children as well as some foreign workers. A German national was freed in Cameroon last week after being abducted in Nigeria’s Adamawa state in July.

In neighbouring Borno state, at least 14 people were killed and houses set on fire on Friday in a suspected Boko Haram attack on the village of Kambari, 5 kilometres from state capital Maiduguri, a military source and eye witnesses said.

Nigeria – regional threat from Boko Haram

Mail and Guardian

Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped about 80 people, many of them children, in a cross-border attack on villages in northern Cameroon, the first time villagers from that country have been kidnapped by suspected militants. The latest reports say the Cameroonian army has freed about 20 of the captives.

In previous kidnappings blamed on the Islamist group in Cameroon, targets have been high-profile people or foreigners taken for ransom. Sunday’s abductions occurred around the village of Mabass in northern Cameroon. The attacks have fuelled fears that the insurgency is spilling out of Nigeria into neighbouring countries.

Increasing ruthlessness
Boko Haram has grown bolder in recent years, and the recent spate of attacks has coincided with the upcoming Nigerian presidential election on February 14.

Before Sunday’s assault in Cameroon, the militants launched one of their bloodiest attacks yet in Nigeria on the towns of Baga and Doron on January 3, leaving hundreds of people dead and thousands of houses burnt or razed.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, described the Boko Haram assault as “the largest and most destructive” his organisation has analysed. “It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt-out ruins,” he said.

Elizabeth Donnelly, an analyst at the Chatham House think- tank, says Baga – a small town in Nigeria’s Borno state – closes a gap in Boko Haram’s map, fulfils a strategic purpose with its proximity to the border with Chad, where it is reported to have set up camps on islands in Lake Chad, and further bolsters its resources and sense of confidence with a win over a multinational military force.

“The small town near Lake Chad was home to the base of the multinational joint task force, comprising troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad – but despite the military presence, Baga was surrounded in the country’s northeastern corner by what has become Boko Haram territory,” she writes.

Impact on the election
Nigeria’s presidential, parliamentary and state gubernatorial and assembly elections, scheduled for next month, are likely to be more contentious than usual.

According to the International Crisis Group, tensions within and between the two major political parties, competing claims to the presidency between northern and Niger Delta politicians and along religious lines, along with inadequate preparations by the electoral commission and apparent bias in security ?agencies, suggest the country is heading toward a volatile and vicious electoral contest.

If the vote is close, marred or followed by widespread violence, it will deepen Nigeria’s political and economic problems. In addition, falling oil prices are eroding government revenue, raising fears that eventually the federal authorities may be unable to pay those who work for them or even maintain essential services.

The Boko Haram insurgency and the state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe could prevent voting in parts of those northeastern states.

The law states people must go to their home constituencies if they want to participate in the poll, but many city-based voters will be reluctant to return if they are under the control of the insurgents.

Boko Haram has repeatedly ?stated its opposition not only to Western education – its name means Western education is forbidden, in the Hausa language – but also to democracy and secular government, which it regards as a form of “paganism”, and its ?attacks could intensify to discourage voting. Some 1.5-million people have been displaced by the insurgency.

As of mid-September 2014, the insurgents had seized 25 towns in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. Nigerian media reports say Boko Haram ?has seized and established control over 20 000km2 of territory in the region.

Nigeria’s opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), which draws most of its support from the north, says it will not accept a result in which “large swaths of the citizenry” are disenfranchised.

The election pits the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, against General Muhammadu Buhari, who has a reputation as one of the more honest and well intentioned of the country’s military rulers but not as one of the most astute.

What Boko Haram wants
The insurgents’ demands have focused on two main areas: the release of Boko Haram prisoners and the creation of an Islamic state.

The group began to emerge in 2002 and 2003, when followers of a young charismatic preacher, Mohammed Yusuf, retreated to Kanamma, a remote area in the northeast. He advocated a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur’an and believed that the creation of Nigeria by British colonialists had imposed a Western and unIslamic way of life on Muslims.

The group opposes voting in elections and the wearing of shirts or trousers. Its eventual goal is to create an Islamic state. Northern Nigeria has a history of spawning militant Islamist groups, but Boko Haram has proved to be the most durable and lethal of such groups.

The Nigerian military thought it had finished off Boko Haram when it seized the group’s headquarters in 2009 in the city of Maiduguri and killed Yusuf. But Boko Haram regrouped under Abubakar Shekau, and has grown stronger and more ruthless. In 2010, it carried out assassinations and a major raid on a prison.

A suicide attacker rammed a ?car bomb into United Nations headquarters in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in August 2011, killing 23 people. In 2013, Boko Haram targeted pupils in a series of attacks, culminating in the raid in Chibok deep in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014, in which 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped. Of this number, 219 remain missing.

Scorched-earth tactics
Despite the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe since May 2013 and increased military offensives, the insurgents have adopted and intensified a three-pronged strategy of bombings in cities, scorched-earth tactics in rural areas and assaults on military and police bases.

These attacks resulted in more than 5 000 civilian casualties and the displacement of at least 750 000 people between May 2013 and October 2014.

The weekend abduction of Cameroonian villagers in that country’s far north will fuel fears that the group is expanding its operations into neighbouring countries. In a video posted online this month, a man claiming to be Shekau threatened to step up violence in Cameroon unless it scraps its Constitution and embraces Islam.

Boko Haram has financed itself mainly through ransom kidnappings, bank robberies and other illegal activities. The group is believed to have raided at least one Nigerian military arms depot. Illegal arms are not difficult for Boko Haram to obtain as arms trafficking is widespread in West Africa.

Nigerian response to the insurgency
Since troops were deployed when an emergency was declared, Boko Haram has withdrawn from its urban base in Maiduguri to the vast Sambisa forest, along the border with Cameroon. But the seventh division of the Nigerian army has been stretched and it lacks equipment and training.

Further complicating Nigeria’s response to the attacks is the fact that the armed forces have been criticised for corruption. It is unclear how much has been spent to combat the insurgency. On the economic front, there is the presidential initiative for the ?northeast, pooling funds from federal departments, state governments, foreign donors and businesses to provide jobs for 100 000 youths in a region of desperate poverty, a factor that is exploited by Boko Haram.

But the programme only began in November and it will take time to have any impact. The government has also been criticised for its seeming lack of urgency in getting to grips with the crisis in the north.

After the abduction in Chibok, which triggered the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign that drew the support from such figures as Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie, it took the president three months to meet any of the affected parents. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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Nigeria – what really happened in Baga?

Africa Check

FACTSHEET: What happened in Baga?

Researched by Julian Rademeyer and Eleanor Whitehead

Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, in a screengrab from a video released by the militant group. Photo: AFP

Accounts of Boko Haram attacks on the remote northern Nigerian towns of Doro Gowon and Baga near Lake Chad in early January are horrific.

Witnesses who escaped the assault have given graphic details of the terrible atrocities they saw as they fled for their lives. People were slaughtered “like insects” and houses and shops were torched. Corpses lay strewn in the streets and in the bushes on the outskirts of the towns and surrounding villages. According to one local government official as many as 2,000 people were killed. Other estimates put the dead in the “hundreds”. There were reports that men, women and children were shot, hacked and burnt to death, or drowned in Lake Chad as they tried to swim to safety.

But two weeks after the massacres in the neighbouring towns and as many as 16 surrounding villages, we still don’t know exactly how many died. “No one stayed back to count bodies,” one survivor told Human Rights Watch.

There are no journalists, government officials, soldiers or independent monitors in Baga at present. The area remains under the control of Boko Haram. There are no Internet connections and mobile phones have not worked in months since jihadists destroyed cellphone masts in the area.

So what do we know?

Not the first massacre

This is the second mass slaughter in the area in 19 months. Nigerian security forces, who have a long history of mass killings of civilians, dating back to the end of military rule in 1999,  were blamed for the first. On 16 April 2013, as many as 183 people were killed and more than 2,000 homes and shops were razed after a Boko Haram attack on a military patrol left one soldier dead and five wounded. According to Human Rights Watch, military reinforcements engaged Boko Haram fighters in running gun battles through the town.

The fighting raged for four hours. Witnesses later said that soldiers had gone on the rampage, shooting civilians and setting thatch-roofed homes alight. The Nigerian military blamed the militants, saying Boko Haram fighters had set fire to the buildings when they fired rocket-propelled grenades. And in a statement they claimed that only 37 people had been killed – 30 of them members of Boko Haram.

The Boko Haram massacre

A screengrab taken on August 24, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Photo: AFP/Boko Haram

The most recent attacks began on January 3, 2015 and, according to witnesses who escaped, continued for at least four days. The BBC’s Will Ross reported that news of the initial attack broke on social media with a vague one-liner: “Attack on Baga. Loud gunfire heard”.

Yusuf Ahmed, a survivor of the massacre, told the UK Guardian that shortly after 5am on 3 January, he saw camouflage trucks filled with men in military fatigues driving into the town. He thought they were Nigerian soldiers. Only when he saw that the men weren’t wearing boots or berets, did he realise that something was terribly wrong. The men ran towards the town’s market and began looting stalls and shops. Then, with cries of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), the shooting started.

Military base attacked

A multinational military base on the outskirts of Doro Gowon, also known as Doron Baga, was attacked. The base was theoretically the headquarters of a task force comprising soldiers from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon but at the time of the attack only Nigerian troops were stationed there.

Soldiers reportedly fought for several hours before dropping their weapons and fleeing into the bush. The BBC spoke to another witness who said “there was shooting from every corner of the headquarters of the multinational task force”. It went on for hours before the soldiers fled and the base was overrun. Some reports said that soldiers gave their guns to civilians in exchange for civilian clothing. As Boko Haram fighters swept through Baga and Doro Gowon people were slaughtered in the streets and hundreds of buildings, shops and houses were torched.

Yahaya Takakumi, a 55-year-old farmer, told Nigeria’s Premium Times: “We saw dead bodies especially on the islands of Lake Chad where fishermen had settled…Several persons were killed there like insects.”

Yusuf Idris, who was described as a member of local militia that tried to halt the attacks in Baga, said he taken shelter in the ruins of house and had hidden there for three days while militants looted and burnt everything in their path. Under cover of darkness he fled into the bush. “I walked through five villages and each one I passed was empty except for dead bodies,” he said.

Yakaka Abubakar,  who fled from Baga to Niger with her three children, spoke to an Africa Check researcher via the International Rescue Commission. She said that seven men who accompanied the group were killed on the journey. “The fighters ordered the women to leave the village after they burned it,” she said. “I cannot count the exact number of dead bodies I saw during my trip. Everywhere were dead bodies of men, women and even children.”

A man told the BBC: “In Baga they killed the majority of children and housewives. They killed more than 200 people in front of me…They are raping and they are killing children…I think there are more than 2,000 dead…They are killing us like animals.”

Hundreds of other Baga residents apparently tried to flee across Lake Chad. There were reports that dozens drowned and that others were stranded on Kangala Island.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees said that at least 7,300 refugees had arrived in Chad between 31 December 2014 and 9 January 2015 after fleeing attacks on Baga and surrounding villages. By January 15, that number had reached 13,000. The International Rescue Commission in Niger told Africa Check this week that it was assisting 572 refugees who fled from Baga to the Diffa region that borders with Nigeria’s Borno state.

How many dead?

A satellite image taken on 7 January 2015 and obtained by Amnesty International shows the town of Baga after the Boko Haram attack. Vehicle activity is present along the main road, including a probably armoured vehicle stationed at a road block close to the centre of town. The yellow dots represent damaged or destroyed strutures. Photo: Amnesty International

There are no accurate figures for the dead in the Baga massacre and there may never be. Death counts for the Boko Haram insurgency are notoriously inaccurate.

Suggestions that as many as 2,000 people had been killed first surfaced in a BBC news report published on 8 January. Musa Alhaji Bukar, “a senior government official in the area”, was quoted saying that Baga – a town with a population of around 10,000, according to the most recent census data from 2006 – was now “virtually non-existent”. The report stated that while Bukar “raised fears that some 2,000 had been killed in the raids, other reports put the number in the hundreds”.

The following day, Amnesty International issued a press release describing the Baga massacre as “possibly [the] deadliest in Boko Haram’s history”.

“If reports that the town was largely razed to the ground and that hundreds or even as many as two thousand civilians were killed are true, this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population,” it stated, quoting Daniel Eyre, an Amnesty International researcher.

Other reports put the death toll in the hundreds. “To say 2,000 people were killed is on the high side,” the local district head, Baba Abba Hassan, told the LA Times. “The death toll could run into several hundreds.”

“As we were running for our lives, we came across many corpses; both men and women, and even children,” Ibrahim Gambo, a refugee from the area, said. “All I know is that the death toll is well over 500 because I have seen several groups of killed villagers and the least of such group were five persons.”

The Nigerian military initially said the description of the attack as “the deadliest” was “quite valid”. But a Nigerian military spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, subsequently sought to downplay the slaughter, saying: “From all available evidence, the number of people who lost their lives during that attack has so far not exceeded about 150 … including … terrorists who were bearing arms and got killed in the course of … battle with troops.”

In a statement, the military claimed: “The figure given by sources who claim to be eye witnesses must be an extremely exaggerated estimate. Unfortunately, this figure is now being bandied about in a section of the media as if it has been authenticated. It cannot be true.” But the Nigerian military is notorious downplaying death tolls.

Images of a massacre

A screenshot taken on 12 January shows one of the purported Baga massacre images. In fact, the image dates from March 2010.

On social media networks, spurred on by the hashtag #BokoHaramKilled2000People, the claimed 2,000 death toll quickly became fact. Many of the tweets were accompanied by horrific images of butchered, burnt and mutilated corpses that purported to show the massacre in Baga. None of them did.

(WARNING: Some of the images in the links below are extremely graphic.)

One of the most disturbing photographs showed rows of charred bodies lying in the sun. But, as Africa Check reported last year, the image does not show a Boko Haram massacre but the aftermath of a fuel tanker explosion in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010.

Another ghastly image showed the burnt corpses of a mother and child. We have been unable to verify its exact origin, but according to Google and the reverse image search engine, Tineye.com, the image has been circulating since at least 2010 and is therefore not from the recent Baga attacks. Given the condition of the bodies, they may have been victims of the fuel tanker explosion, but we cannot say for certain.

Yet another photograph attributed to the Baga massacre showed a crowd clustered around a mass grave. However, that image dates from a massacre near the city of Jos in March 2010.

And an image of grotesquely mutilated corpses strewn across a road next to a bus was actually taken in 2010. According to a BBC report at the time, a series of photographs emerged after armed robbers attacked a bus on the Lagos-Benin highway. The dead had reportedly been made to lie down in the road and then the bus driver was ordered to run them over.

Even a Reuters photograph of a group of men lying face down outside a police station after their arrest in the city of Bauchi in northeastern Nigeria on 25 July 2009 (See the caption at the bottom of the page) has been passed off as evidence of the Baga massacres and has spread widely on the web and Twitter.

Another image that has gone viral on Twitter shows a pile of bloodied bodies lying in street. It is also not from Baga but was taken in July 2009 by an Associated Press photographer outside a police station in the town of Maiduguri after clashes between Nigerian troops and Islamist militants left hundreds dead.

To date we have been unable to find any verifiable images of the Baga massacre. (Read our guide to spotting online fakes and hoaxes for tips on checking images like these.)

Death from above

A satellite image of the town of Doro Gowon shows the town before and after the January 2015 Boko Haram attack. Click on the image for a larger view. Photo: Amnesty International

Satellite images released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on 15 January 2015 do however capture the enormous scale of the destruction in Baga and Doro Gowon.

According to Human Rights Watch, the images show that Doro Gowon – the site of the multinational military base – bore the brunt of the assault “with extensive areas of destruction covering approximately 57 percent of the town”.

“It is likely that several thousand residential and commercial buildings have been destroyed as a result.”

Satellite images show that “arson attacks likely occurred in Doro Gowon during the evening of January 3 and the morning of January 4”and that “approximately 11 percent” of Baga – about 3km away – was razed.

Amnesty International has estimated that “over 3,700 structures” in Doro Gowon and Baga were “damaged or completely destroyed”.

“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days,” Daniel Eyre, Amnesty’s Nigeria researcher said.

“Of all Boko Haram assaults analysed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet. It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.”

Claiming responsibility

In a video released by the militant group on 20 January, 2015, Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed responsibility for the killings in Baga and surrounding towns and villages.

“We killed the people of Baga. We indeed killed them, as our Lord instructed us in His Book,” Shekau said in the 35-minute “message to the world”, which was posted on YouTube.

He added: “We will not stop. This is not much. You’ll see.”

As his men picked through an arsenal of weapons, apparently captured from the military base in Doro Gowon, Shekau said: “I challenge you to attack me even now. I’m ready.

“…Nigeria is dead, (the) constitution is dead.”

– See more at: http://africacheck.org/factsheets/factsheet-what-happened-in-baga/#sthash.LjTVAvtJ.dpuf

Nigeria-Cameroon – 20 of the Cameroonian Boko Haram abductees released

BBC

At least 20 of up to 80 people taken hostage by Boko Haram militants in Cameroon at the weekend are reported to be free.

Cameroon’s defence ministry said the hostages were freed “as defence forces pursued the attackers who were heading back to Nigeria”.

Many of those kidnapped in the cross-border raid were said to be children.

It was one of the biggest abductions by Boko Haram outside Nigeria and raised fears that it is expanding its attacks.

The militant Islamist group has seized control of towns and villages in north-east Nigeria and has begun threatening neighbouring countries.

Chad, which also borders Nigeria, has recently sent soldiers to help Cameroon tackle the militants.

Homes burned
The abductions took place in the villages of Maki and Mada near the city of Mokolo in Cameroon’s Far North region.

Cameroonian police and officials said the militants had arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning when it was still dark. Many of those seized were said to be women and children.

Before leaving, the attackers burned dozens of homes to the ground.

It was not immediately clear how those hostages who are now free became detached from the main group.

Cameroon has not given details about its military operation and there has been no word from those freed or from the militants.

On Friday, Ghana’s President John Mahama said African leaders would discuss plans this week to “deal permanently” with Boko Haram, and suggested a multinational force may be considered.

Niger and Cameroon have criticised Nigeria for failing to do more to stop Boko Haram’s attacks.

Correspondents say Nigerian politicians appear more focused on campaigning for elections next month than on security issues, and senior figures rarely comment on the insurgency in the north-east.

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