NIGERIA’S military has called for support in tackling Boko Haram after a major attack on a key northeast town that is feared could be the worst in the bloody six-year insurgency.
There are still no independently corroborated figures for the huge numbers said to have been killed in Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad in the far north of Borno State.
However some reports put the number of fatalities as high as 2,000 - nearly ten times higher than the initial casualty count. Amnesty International, has said the assault on the town of Baga could be the deadliest attack by Boko Haram since the extremist group surfaced in 2009.
“The attack on Baga and surrounding towns looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act in a catalogue of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group,” Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International has been quoted saying.
Amnesty International has quoted sources that say the town has been razed, with as many as 2,000 people killed. If true, that would mark a “disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population,” Eyre added.
Defence spokesman Chris Olukolade could only say in a statement issued late Saturday that the description of the assault as “the deadliest” was “quite valid”.
“The attack on the town by the bloodhounds and their activities since January 3rd, 2015 should convince well-meaning people all over the world that Boko Haram is the evil all must collaborate to end, rather than vilifying those working to check them,” he said.
Nigeria’s military—West Africa’s largest—has faced repeated criticism for failing to end the six-year Islamist insurgency, as well as allegations of human rights abuses.
Soldiers have complained of a lack of adequate weapons and even refused to deploy to take on the better-armed rebels, who want to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria.
With elections set for next month, Nigeria’s government has also been accused of playing politics with the insurgency, as most of the areas worst affected by the violence are main opposition strongholds.
But Olukolade said: “The Nigerian military has not given up on Baga and other localities where terrorist activities are now prevalent.
“Appropriate plans, men and resources are presently being mobilised to address the situation,” he said on defenceinfo.mil.ng, in the military’s first detailed comment on last weekend’s attack.
The military and government often makes such statements, without giving specific details, yet there are reports of attacks on an almost daily basis.
On Saturday, two explosions rocked northeast Nigeria, including one by a suicide bomber at a crowded market in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, by a young girl thought to be just 10. Nineteen people were killed.