Boko Haram leader Imam Abubakar Shekau
Maiduguri (Nigeria), June 5 (AP): Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers slaughtered at least 200 civilians in three villages in northeastern Nigeria and the military failed to intervene even though it was warned that an attack was imminent, witnesses said today.
A community leader who witnessed the killings on Monday said residents of the Gwoza local government district in Borno state had urged the military for more soldiers to protect the area after they heard that militants were about to attack. However, help didn’t arrive. The killings occurred in Danjara, Agapalwa, and Antagara.
“We all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported to that the insurgents might attack us,” said the community leader who escaped the massacre and fled to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital.
The militants arrived in Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks — commonly used by the military — and told the civilians they were soldiers and that they had come “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 of the town on the orders of the militants, “they began to shout ‘Allah-u-Akbar, Allah-u-Akbar’, then they began to fire at the people continuously for a very long time until all who had gathered were all dead”, said the witness, who didn’t want to be named out of fear for his safety.
The slaughter was confirmed by both Mohammed Ali Ndume, a senator representing Borno whose hometown is Gwoza, and by a top security official in Maiduguri who insisted on anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media.
It took a few days for survivors to get word of the massacres to Maiduguri because travel on the roads is extremely dangerous and phone connections are poor or non-existent.
Ndume said the military has assured the Borno state governor that they will send soldiers to the area immediately.
“It is sad that we have to wait till now that people are being killed for government to take action,” said Ndume. “Soldiers of the Nigerian army have been overstretched in both human and material capacity.”
Calls made to defence headquarters spokesman Chris Olukolade’s mobile phone didn’t connect. An email sent to him seeking comment wasn’t answered. Calls made to presidential spokesman Reuben Abati also didn’t connect, and he didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The community leader said some of the others who escaped are trapped in the mountainous area.