Amnesty International has released a report detailing the horrors of Boko Haram’s attack on the Nigerian town of Baga between January 2 and 7. Among the atrocities witnesses recount is the particularly gruesome killing of a woman while she was in labor, who was slaughtered along with an estimated 2,000 others in the town.
“[H]alf of the baby boy is out and she died like this,” an unnamed witness told the charity.
The witness told Amnesty the terrorists “were shooting indiscriminately killing even small children.” A survivor overheard the gunmen saying they watched members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, state formed militia groups, “as they went house to house to house shooting men of fighting age.” After the carnage, another witness told Amnesty the militants chased those who attempted to escape.
“Boko Haram took around 300 women and kept us in a school in Baga,” said the woman. “They released the older women, mothers and most of the children after four days but are still keeping the younger women.”
The death toll is estimated at 2,000. Nigerian authorities placed the toll at 150, but the government tends to lower death tolls to downplay the impact Boko Haram has on the country. No one truly knows because no one can return.
“No one stayed back to count the bodies,” a witness told Human Rights Watch (HRW). “We were all running to get out of town ahead of Boko Haram fighters who have since taken over the area.”
Doctors Without Borders is currently treating survivors in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. The United Nations claimed over 11,000 people fled to Chad. HRW and Amnesty released before and after satellite images of Baga and Doro Gowon, which show the attack demolished over 3,700 structures.
“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days,” reported Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty. “Of all Boko Haram assaults analysed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet. It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.”
Up until now, the isolation of Baga combined with the fact that Boko Haram remains in control of the area has meant that it has been very difficult to verify what happened there. Residents have not been able to return to bury the dead, let alone count their number. But through these satellite images combined with graphic testimonies a picture of what is likely to be Boko Haram’s deadliest attack ever is becoming clearer. This week, Nigeria’s Director of Defence Information stated that the number of people killed in Baga including Boko Haram fighters “has so far not exceeded about 150.” These images, together with the stories of those who survived the attack, suggest that the final death toll could be much higher than this figure.