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Satellite images show scale of ‘deadly' Boko Haram attack

BEFORE AND AFTER: The red markings in the first image show buildings and the second shows them razed to the ground

SATELLITE IMAGES revealing the aftermath of Boka Haram’s ‘most destructive’ attack to date suggest the Nigerian government could be downplaying the scale of the atrocity.

The pictures, released today by Amnesty International, show the neighbouring towns of Baga and Doron Baga, also known as Doron Gowon, damaged or completely destroyed.

Eyewitnesses told the human rights group that they saw militants rounding callously shooting dead civilians and setting fire to buildings.

It has also been alleged that while older women and children were released, many of the younger women are being held by members of Boko Haram.

A man in his 50s told Amnesty: “They killed so many people. I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing.”

He said he tried to hide in the bush but was discovered by Boko Haram fighters, who detained him in Doron Baga for four days.

Those who fled also described seeing corpses in the bush. “I don’t know how many but there were bodies everywhere we looked,” one woman told Amnesty.

However, an official for the Nigerian government said that, according to their estimates, fewer than 150 people have been killed.

President Goodluck Jonathon is yet to make a public statement on the incident.

Amnesty International said the images coupled with eyewitness reports suggest the death toll is much higher.

A figure of 2,000 currently being reported.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, said: “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.

“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.”

Eyre said it was difficult to verify what had happened because Boko Haram remain in control of the area, and residents of the towns have not been able to return to bury the dead.

It is believed Boko Haram launched an attack on January 3 targeting Baga, a densely populated town, and neighbouring Doron Baga, near to Lake Chad.

The towns have a combined estimated population of 203,864.

In Doron Baga, more than 3,100 structures were damaged or destroyed by fire. Many of the wooden fishing boats along the shoreline, visible in the images taken on January 2, are no longer present in the January 7 images.

This corroborates the testimonies of eyewitnesses who recalled seeing desperate residents trying to flee by boat.

Thousands of people are alleged to have fled the violence across the border to Chad and to other parts of Nigeria including Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

Medecins sans Frontières reported yesterday that 5,000 survivors of the attack on Baga are currently staying in a camp in Maiduguri.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency (UNHRC) reported last week that some 7,300 Nigerian refugees had arrived in western Chad.

Amnesty said it is calling on the governments of Nigeria and Chad to ensure these displaced people are protected and provided with adequate humanitarian assistance.

They are also calling on the Nigerian government to do more to protect civilians living in the northeastern region.

According to Amnesty’s research, more than 4,000 civilians were killed by Boko Haram in 2014.

The Islamist group, whose name roughly translates as ‘Western Education is haram’ has been in operation since 2009.

They are believed to control about 20,000 square miles of territory – the size of Belgium – in the state of Borno and neighouring Yobe.

In 2014, they were responsible for the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls, many of whom are still being held, or sold into slavery.

On January 11, a girl believed to be as young as 10, walked into the town of Maiduguri with a bomb attached to her chest, resulting in the deaths of 10 people and 20 injuries.
The following day, two female ‘suicide bombers’ carried explosive devices into a market in the city of Potiskum, in Yobe State. Four were killed and dozens injured.

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