Monday, 27 April 2015

Breaking News: 'Hundreds' found dead, buried in Damasak, NE Nigeria

A Nigerien soldier walks out of a house that residents say a Boko Haram militant had forcefully seized and occupied in Damasak March 24, 2015. Boko Haram militants have kidnapped more than 400 women and children from the northern Nigerian town of Damasak that was freed this month by troops from Niger and Chad, residents said on Tuesday. Nigerian, Chadian and Niger forces have driven militants out of a string of towns in simultaneous offensives over the past month.© Joe Penney/ReutersHundreds of people have been found dead in the northeast Nigerian town of Damasak, apparently victims of Boko Haram insurgents, residents and officials said on Monday.
"Dead bodies were found in houses, streets and many more in the Damasak River which has dried up," said local man Kaumi Kusur, adding the victims were buried in 20 mass graves at the weekend.
Mohammed Sadiq, another local who helped in the burials on Saturday, put the death toll at more than 400 but the Borno state government did not state a precise figure, giving a toll of "hundreds".
Troops from Chad and Niger retook Damasak from Boko Haram on March 9 as part of a regional offensive to combat the militants, who captured the town in November last year.
A Chadian security source said at the time that some 200 rebel fighters were killed in the offensive as well as 10 soldiers.
On March 20, Chadian army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa Agouna said about 100 bodies were found in a mass grave under a bridge just outside Damasak. Some had been decapitated while others shot.
Agouna estimated that the massacre probably occurred in January.
In the latest discovery, Sadiq said the bodies had been covered by sand from the encroaching desert.
"We were mobilised by the state authorities to bury them and we did it accordingly. The bodies include those of women and children as well as agile men," he added.
Kusur said the bodies discovered from Thursday last week "far outnumbered" those found in March when the town was liberated.
"We brought all of them and though the bodies have decomposed, we gave them (a) proper burial in more than 20 mass graves that can be identified anytime the need arises," he said.
The discovery came as thousands of people displaced by the violence sought to return from temporary camps to Damasak, which is near Lake Chad in the far north of restive Borno state.
Some 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes since the insurgency began in 2009.
Claimed successes against the militants by Nigeria and its partners Chad, Niger and Cameroon have increased talk of the displaced returning home.
Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima set up a committee to look at ways to rebuild some of the towns recovered but members of one of the sub-committees returned with news of the grim find.
Their spokesman Baba Gana Mustapha, said: "The level of devastation in Damasak is high. We have seen hundreds of people that were massacred by Boko Haram."

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