Clay Dubberly, ‘Doah Staff Writer
January 21, 2015
As the world looked toward Paris for the recent terrorist attacks several weeks ago, where Islamic extremists tried — and failed — to silence free speech by attacking satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the terrorist group Boko Haram slaughtered over 2,000 innocents in Nigeria, in what is now being called the second deadliest terror attack in modern history.
In a killing spree, Boko Haram sacked the city of Baga, killing thousands.
Radicals sped into the city with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47’s, gunning down civilians, including women and children.
Boko Haram began the siege on Baga on Wednesday Jan. 3, after overrunning a key military base located there. Baga was intended to be the stronghold of a French-sponsored alliance of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. However, Nigerian troops abandoned the city, leaving it open to attack. The corpses have not been buried yet and are still “strewn across the street.”
Mohamed Bukar, a survivor of the attack, said, “I escaped with my family in the car after seeing how Boko Haram was killing people… I saw bodies in the street. Children and women, some were crying for help.”
Boko Haram, which translates to “education is forbidden,” is the same terrorist organization responsible for the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in early April 2014. They are based in northeast Nigeria, with strongholds in Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The group has claimed over 5,000 deaths between July 2009 and June 2014.
Nigerian Lawmaker Maina Maaji Lawan said that although Nigerian national media places number of deaths under 2,000, that it is just an attempt “not to further inflame the minds” and adds that Muslims also were killed, making the massacre seem indiscriminate. It is difficult to estimate the number of deaths in the siege, since the city is still not safe, and the numbers are so high.
Lawan said, “When those of Boko Haram arrive in a major city they make no distinction between Christians and Muslims, and the population flees, without distinction of religion. Boko Haram separates Muslims from Christians only in the smaller villages.”
According to a U.S. counter-terrorism official, the militants went house-to-house, street-to-street, strategically placing improvised explosive devices in the roads to cut off anyone attempting to escape. Firing squads were pre-positioned in areas where survivors were likely to try to get to, and “they were mowed down,” according to the official.
Survivors of the attack fled to nearby islands and marshes, wary of menacing hippos nearby. J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council Africa Center, said, “These are not stable islands, more like sand bars. The topography, with the marshes and hippos, gives you a flavor of the misery [of] those who’ve escaped are facing.”
According to Mike Omeri, a Nigerian government official, an effort is underway to reclaim the lost territory.
Following the attacks, at least 30,000 were misplaced and are temporarily staying in Maiduguri city, the capital of Borno state.
“If reports that the town was largely razed to the ground and that hundreds or even as many as 2,000 civilians were killed are true, this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population,” Amnesty International’s Daniel Eyre said.
Boko professes its aim to be to impose stricter Sharia Law throughout Nigeria, which is split between a Muslim north and Christian south.
The U.S. condemns the attack, with U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying that “all those responsible for these recurring terrorist attacks must be held accountable.”