The Nigerian military has “burned and forcibly displaced” entire villages in response to the recent escalation of terror attacks by the Islamic militants Boko Haram, according to a report from Amnesty International published Friday.
The organization used satellite data analysis and conducted interviews with those affected in Borno State. It reported numerous cases of Nigerian troops forcing the displacement of villagers, burning their property, and the arbitrary detention and consequent torture of civilians, all of which would amount to war crimes.
Residents interviewed described troops going house to house rounding people up before forcing them to walk to the main road and board trucks. Around 400 people were consequently taken to a camp for people displaced by the conflict in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, while their houses were burned to the ground.
“We saw our houses go into flames,” one 70-year-old told Amnesty. “We all started crying.”
Six men were also detained and held for almost a month at a facility where they were subjected to beatings and torture before being released without charge in January.
“These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“They repeat a longstanding pattern of the Nigerian military’s brutal tactics against the civilian population. Forces allegedly responsible for such violations must be suspended immediately and brought to justice,” he continued.
— Amnesty Int. Nigeria (@AmnestyNigeria) February 14, 2020
A spokesperson for the Nigerian military vehemently denied the allegations in a statement on Friday, claiming they were merely removing civilians from the line of combat. They also accused the human rights group of launching a “campaign of calumny targeting the Nigerian military” and supporting the Islamic caliphate.
“They say they saved us from Boko Haram, but it’s a lie,” a 65-year-old man told Amnesty. “Boko Haram isn’t coming to our village.”
The bombshell report was published as the Nigerian military faces continued national and international scrutiny for their failure to defeat Boko Haram, despite repeated claims from their leadership and even President Muhammed Buhari that the caliphate had been eradicated.
This past weekend, militants from the Islamic State-affiliated group killed at least 30 people by setting their cars alight while they were inside before abducting women and children in a raid in north-eastern Nigeria. Harrowing images from the scene charred bodies lying beside their vehicles, including a pregnant mother and her young child.
Boko Haram has waged a brutal insurgency across Nigeria since 2009, killing around 35,000, many of whom are targeted for being Christian or showing insufficient loyal to Islam. A recent report from the United Nations found that around 1.2 million Nigerians are still living in areas controlled by the caliphate, while two million have been displaced since its foundation.