Following the outrage that greeted the alleged killing of about 185 persons including women and children in a shoot out between soldiers and Boko Haram insurgents in Baga, a fishing community in Borno State, last Friday, the military yesterday explained that six civilians, one soldier and 30 terrorists died, while 15 others were injured in an operation that was carried out by a multinational force comprising troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger Republic.
Reuters quoting Nigerian Army spokesman Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade, yesterday said a joint force from Nigeria, Niger and Chad, comprising over 100 soldiers was assembled after intelligence was received that Islamist militants Boko Haram had moved into Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad.
“The force that hit them was a multinational force involving Chadian and Nigerien troops who has been cooperating on the border for about a decade”, Olukayode said. Nigerien and Chadian officials have reportedly confirmed their involvement, adding that they were surprised by the firepower they faced there.
There are still no official confirmation of the number of those killed. The Red Cross reported a death toll of 187, many of them civilians, with dozens more wounded. Red Cross national coordinator, Umar Mariaga told AFP that his staff members were still struggling to reach Baga, where the security situation remains uncertain. “We are making efforts to get clearance from the security agents to get in and assist the victims of the violence,” he said.
President Goodluck Jonathan late Monday ordered a “full-scale” probe of the killing. The investigation will determine whether or not the military complied with the established rules of engagement during the operation.
Meantime, Commander of the Multi-national Joint Task Force,
Brig-General Austin Edokpayi has said only six civilians lost their lives. The Commander who gave an update on the encounter said:
“Multi National Joint Task Force troops on routine patrol at Baga– Mallam Garati Road had an encounter with Boko Haram terrorists at about 7.30pm on Friday, 19 April, 2013”. “During the encounter, one soldier was killed and 5 other soldiers
were injured. While 30 Boko Haram terrorists lost their lives, five were arrested and many escaped with bullet wounds.
Unfortunately, six civilians lost their lives and 10 other civilians
were injured in the crossfire”.
The following items were recovered: “Three Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers, two Rocket-Propelled Grenade Bombs, four AK 47 rifles, 435 assorted ammunition, several quantities of IED materials, while three Land Cruiser Vehicles of the terrorists were damaged”.
A statement signed by Brigadier General Olukolade added that: “Contrary to media speculation that hundreds of houses were burnt, instead, it was the explosion from Boko Haram terrorist Rocket Propelled Grenade Bombs, Anti Aircraft Guns and sophisticated IED materials that triggered fire to about 30 thatched houses in the predominantly fishing community”.
A statement sent to Vanguard yesterday from office of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said: “The Secretary-General is shocked and saddened at the reports of high numbers of civilians killed, and homes destroyed, as a result of violence
between military forces and an extremist group in the North- Eastern town of Baga in Borno State, Nigeria, on 19 and 20 April.
He expresses his condolences to the bereaved families and calls on all extremist groups to cease their attacks. The Secretary-General reiterates his firm conviction that no objective sought can justify this resort to violence. He underscores the need for all concerned to fully respect human rights and safeguard the lives of civilians.”
United States also condemned the violence. US State Department
Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said: “We support the Nigerian authorities in their efforts to bring the perpetrators of violent acts
to justice, and stress the importance of respecting human rights and protecting civilians in all security responses”.