Amnesty International documents terror group's crimes, but also indicts authorities
Boko Haram, which abducted some 276 school girls from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok one year ago, has committed war crimes and crimes agains humanity with impunity, Amnesty International charged in a report released Tuesday.
But in many cases, authorities in Nigeria have failed to protect its people, the report alleges.
A year after the mass kidnapping that spurred a worldwide Twitter campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, the fate of many of the youngsters is still unknown.
"It is worrying that we do not know anything about the Chibok girls one year after their kidnapping," said Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos and President of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria.
At least At least 56 girls have escaped since the early morning raid on April 14, 2014, but 219 are still missing.
The Voice of America quoted one of those who escaped, identified as Saratu, 19, who said that the moment the men spoke in Hausa, saying they were soldiers "and that we shouldn’t be afraid, we knew it was Boko Haram.”
“They told us we shouldn’t be in school. That education, ‘book,’ is bad, ‘haram,’ and that we should come with them,” Saratu said.
As Amnesty’s report explains, "Boko Haram" means "Western education is forbidden," but the terror organization’s official name is Jamā’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lādda’awatih wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad). It was established in 2002 in northeast Nigeria "as a religious movement committed to a society based on its interpretation of Islam. After clashes in 2009 between the security forces and Boko Haram’s members, during which the group’s founder Muhammed Yusuf was extrajudicially executed, the group began a series of revenge attacks against the police."
The report, which documents Boko Haram’s violent campaign against Nigerians since the beginning of 2014, explains:
Boko Haram’s attacks increasingly targeted civilians and from 2012 the group attacked schools, teachers and students to prevent people from receiving a western education. In mid-2013, state security forces pushed Boko Haram out of the cities and towns of northeast Nigeria where they had lived among the population. They moved to remote communities and camps, such as their headquarters in Sambisa forest, Borno state. From these bases, Boko Haram launched almost daily attacks against civilian targets.
In 2014 Boko Haram killed more than 4,000 people, although the true figure is almost certainly higher. In the first three months of 2015, Boko Haram fighters killed at least 1,500 civilians. The group bombed civilian targets across Nigeria, raided towns and villages in the northeast and from July 2014 began to capture major towns. By February 2015, it controlled the majority of Borno state, as well as northern Adamawa state and eastern Yobe state. In August 2014, Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, proclaimed this territory to be a caliphate. Tens of thousands of civilians were subjected to Boko Haram’s brutal rule.
In February 2015 a counter-offensive by the Nigerian military, with support from Cameroon, Chad and Niger, forced Boko Haram from some major towns and released many civilians from Boko Haram’s rule. It is too early to judge whether this has weakened Boko Haram’s ability to threaten the lives and property of civilians in the northeast.
Boko Haram used improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including car bombs, and suicide bombers to kill civilians at markets, transport hubs, schools and other public institutions.They repeatedly attacked cities in the northeast, but also struck targets in cities across Nigeria. In 46 bomb attacks between January 2014 and March 2015, the group killed at least 817 people.
Boko Haram’s raids on towns and villages in northeast Nigeria terrorized civilians and disrupted ordinary people’s livelihoods. Some attacks were carried out by just two or three gunmen on a motorcycle, some by hundreds of fighters supported by tanks and anti-aircraft weapons mounted on flat-bed trucks. The fighters shot civilians in the streets and in their homes. They stole from people’s houses, shops and markets, burned these buildings and left.They frequently abducted civilians. In some attacks, Boko Haram gunmen quietly entered villages or towns and assassinated specific individuals identified in advance. In others, BokoHaram assembled civilians and preached to them, instructing them not to be loyal to the government and to follow Boko Haram’s version of Islam. Boko Haram sometimes gave civilians a choice: to be killed or join the group. More frequently, fighters simply shot civilians or cut their throats.