Nigerian troops committing atrocities in fight against Islamic uprising - report

Nigerian soldiers on the 101st airbase in Bamako (AFP Photo / Eric Feferberg)
A Nigerian human rights watchdog released a report that says security forces are killing, torturing, illegally detaining and raping civilians in a fight to halt an Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed nearly 2,000 people since 2010.

A Nigerian human rights watchdog released a report that says security forces are killing, torturing, illegally detaining and raping civilians in a fight to halt an Islamic uprising that has killed nearly 2,000 people since 2010.

The report, put out by Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission on Sunday, said troops went on a rampage in the northeast of the country after a soldier was killed in April in the fishing village of Baga. Quoting police sources, the soldiers "started shooting indiscriminately at anybody in sight, including domestic animals.” the report said, as quoted by AP.

The retaliation left the homes of many villagers gutted and torched, with troops attempting to hide evidence of the carnage by disposing of bodies.

"The Commission equally received several credibly attested allegations of gross violations by officials of the JTF (joint task force of police and military), including allegations of summary executions, torture, arbitrary detention amounting to internment and outrages against the dignity of civilians, as well as rape," it said.

Members of the Nigerian Defence headquarter team inspecting an alleged Boko Haram base in Kirenowa (AFP Photo)

Military officials said 36 people were killed, most of them “extremist fighters.” Witnesses told AP at the time that some 187 civilians were killed.

The report revealed the killings came after Islamic militants had looted a weapons depot, with subsequent reports suggesting the militants were becoming better armed and "had become both more organized and emboldened by their apparent successes, despite the enhanced security presence."

That contradicted reports that the military had taken control of the region in an emergency operation canvassing thee states, or roughly one-sixth of the country. Instead, it appears government troops have pushed the Islamic insurgents into rocky territory where it is more difficult to locate them. It is from these caves and rugged hideouts that the extremists are attacking towns and villages with regularity.

The government commission issued an interim report saying it would determine when its investigators are able to visit the conflict zone, where soldiers have cut mobile phone and internet connections. Nigeria declared a state of emergency on May 14 when extremists from the Boko Haram terrorist group took control of some towns and villages.

The suspected leader of the Nigerian Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Imam Abu Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Abubakar Ash Shekawi, also known as Abubakar Shekau (AFP Photo)

The uprising poses the biggest threat in years to security in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, with 160 million citizens, and the continent's largest producer of oil.

Village communities trapped between the Islamic militants and security forces "reportedly live in desperate fear and destitution," the commission said.

It warned of an imminent threat to public health, as well as food shortages since many farmers have been driven from their fields.

Northeast Nigeria is the poorest region in the country, with government statistics showing 75 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.