Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Amnesty International (AI) Nigeria, has said it has confirmed that at least, 60 people were killed, following the January 28 devastating Boko Haram attack on Rann, a border town in Borno state, northeast Nigeria.
AI Nigeria said the attack which took place earlier in the week, had been the deadliest attack carried out by the insurgents.
It added that the attack on civilians who were already displaced by the bloody conflict, might amount to possible war crime, even as it said those responsible must be brought to justice.
AI Nigeria said that it was able to confirm the mass burning of structures as Boko Haram unleashed a massive assault on Rann, most of which is now destroyed.
AI Nigeria, in a statement in Abuja by its Media Manager, Isa Sanusi, said the organisation also analysed satellite imagery which showed hundreds of burnt structures in the town.
It added that many of the destroyed structures only date back to 2017, suggesting they were shelters for internally displaced people who came to Rann seeking protection.
“We have now confirmed that this week’s attack on Rann was the deadliest yet by Boko Haram, killing at least 60 people. Using satellite imagery, we have also been able to confirm the mass burning of structures as Boko Haram unleashed a massive assault on Rann, most of which is now destroyed,” the Director of AI Nigeria, Osai Ojigho said.
Ojigho added: “This attack on civilians who have already been displaced by the bloody conflict may amount to possible war crime, and those responsible must be brought to justice.
“Disturbingly, witnesses told us that Nigerian soldiers abandoned their posts the day before the attack, demonstrating the authorities’ utter failure to protect civilians.”
AI Nigeria further said the alleged withdrawal of troops, triggered a massive exodus of civilians to Cameroon, as fear spread that Boko Haram would take advantage and attack the town.
It also said at around 9am on 28 January, a group of Boko Haram fighters arrived on motorcycles and set houses ablaze and killed those left behind.
“They also chased after those who attempted to escape and killed some people outside the town. Eleven bodies were found within Rann town, and 49 bodies were found outside.
“Amnesty International was informed that about 50 people have not been accounted for. Those who took part in the burial explained what they saw,” AI Nigeria further said.
It said according to an eyewitness: “Ten of us [Civilian Joint Task Force] came from Cameroon to Rann for the burial. When we arrived, we found and buried 11 corpses within the town; but the soldiers told us that they buried several others yesterday [January 30] who had decayed.
Outside the town, we recovered and buried 49 dead bodies all with gunshot wounds.”
AI Nigeria also said aid agencies have reported that some 30,000 civilians had fled for the border with Cameroon in recent days, joining a further 9,000 who fled Boko Haram’s previous attack on Rann on January14.
On its satellite evidence of mass burning, AI Nigeria said it analysed satellite images from January 30, 2019, showing hundreds of structures burnt in the east, south and southeast of Rann.
It added that environmental sensors detected fire in the area on January 28 and 29.
AI Nigeria further said in the January 14 attack, Boko Haram burnt well over 100 structures in other areas of Rann, adding that the two recent attacks had left most of the town heavily damaged or destroyed.
AI Nigeria called on Nigerian authorities to investigate the alleged withdrawal of security forces of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) from Rann, which it said, might have left tens of thousands of civilians exposed to the latest deadly attack.
“Boko Haram has consistently and deliberately targeted civilians in Rann, which makes the Nigerian authorities’ failure to protect people all the more unacceptable,” said Osai Ojigho.
“The authorities on both sides of the border must provide the supplies and safety that these people require. The Cameroonian authorities must also desist from forcing people to return until conditions are safe and they choose to do so voluntarily,” AI also said.
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