Thursday, November 6, 2014 8:22 pm
* A catalogue of atrocities being perpetrated by all parties in the Boko Haram war
A member of the civilian vigilante group, in Yobe state, north east Nigeria has revealed that his group,along with Nigerian soldiers ambushed Boko Haram fighters last Friday as they prepared a raid on Sabon Gari village in the south of the state. Then they killed all of them and cut off their heads.
“We killed 41 of them and decapitated them and brought the heads to Biu, which we displayed to people to demystify Boko Haram,” said Umar Hassan, a member of the Vigilante group.
Two Biu residents said the vigilantes put the heads on wooden spikes and drove around the town, telling people the Islamists did not have magical powers.
“It was like hunters displaying their game after a hunting expedition,” said, one, Silas Buba.
The incident may probably not shock residents of Nigeria’s north east states daily bombarded with horrifying stories of atrocities by Boko Haram invaders and Nigeria’s military. But it surely would trigger the concerns of of human rights groups about the worsening human rights abuses in the beleaguered region.
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in previous reports have documented a series of atrocities committed by the various groups in the region: the civilian Vigilante group, the military and Boko Haram.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said they were aware of the latest report on the beheading of suspected Boko Haram militants and were investigating the authenticity of the claims.
“This is the latest in a string of abuses in which pro-government vigilante groups have been implicated,” said HRW’s Nigeria researcher Mausi Segun.
“The CJTF (Civilian Joint Task Force) is increasingly becoming emboldened by the lack of accountability for the same type of abuses Boko Haram is accused of,” she added, calling for an investigation and prosecution.
Boko Haram meanwhile, in its Islamic Republic enclave within Nigeria has been trampling on the rights of its conquered people, under the guise of implementing Sharia law.
In Mubi, Boko Haram chopped off the hands of 10 men accused of theft last Friday and burnt down churches, said Ahmad Maishanu, who fled Mubi on Wednesday.
In a video released on October 2, Boko Haram showed the stoning to death of a man accused of adultery, a man having his right hand cut off for theft and a young man and woman given 100 lashes each for sex outside marriage.
The group, which wants to create a hardline Islamic state in Nigeria’s northeast, is now thought to control at least two dozen towns in the region.
Nigerian troops have also been accused recently of extra-judicial killings. On Thursday they were accused of killing 16 Boko Haram suspects, arrested on Wednesday after morning prayers.
The men were arrested in Potiskum, Yobe state but hours after the arrest, they were found dead in a morgue with bullet wounds.
Locals in the Dogo Tebo area of the city believed the men were picked up and killed because all of them were from the Kanuri ethnic group that forms the bulk of Boko Haram’s membership.
“All the bodies have gunshot wounds on them,” said a nurse at the Potiskum General Hospital, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
The bodies had been brought in by soldiers and were formally identified by community leaders, he told AFP.
On Monday, at least 15 people were killed and some 50 others were injured in a suicide bombing targeting a major Shia Muslim festival in Potiskum, which is Yobe state’s commercial capital.
A number of others were killed when troops deployed to the scene opened fire, the head of the Shia community, Mustapha Lawan Nasidi, said at the time.
The latest deaths were described by another community leader as “cold-blooded murder” while residents expressed concern about the fate of a Muslim cleric and three others who were also detained.
The Nigerian government and military made a surprise announcement on October 17 that it had secured a ceasefire deal with the militants and peace talks were being held.
But there has been no let-up in the violence since then and last Friday the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, dismissed claims of an end to hostilities as “a lie”.
*From reports by Aminu ABUBAKAR