A mass grave containing an estimated 100 bodies, most with their throats visibly cut through, was found in the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak after Chadian and Nigerien forces eradicated occupying Boko Haram terrorists.
The battle to retake Damasak, which Reuters notes had been occupied by the jihadist terror group since November, claimed the lives of around 20 soldiers and 200 Boko Haram terrorists, the Chadian army reported. Forces from Chad and Niger, currently participating in a military coalition with Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin to eliminate Boko Haram, have vowed to remain in Damasak until President Goodluck Jonathan sends Nigerian troops to secure the area.
During the wait, the soldiers found a mass grave under a bridge that Nigerian newspaper Vanguard reports contained 100 bodies, according to Chadian army sources. “There are about 100 bodies spread around under the bridge just outside the town,” Colonel Azem Bermandoa Agouna told the Agence France-Presse, asserting that the mass grave appeared fresh enough to have been made by Boko Haram terrorists.
Reuters reports that a witness counted 70 bodies within the grave, adding that witnesses attest that the “strong smell of decomposition in many parts of the town” indicates that they may be one of several mass graves created in the area. Reuters adds that the bridge showed blood marks that indicated the bodies were thrown off the bridge and that Boko Haram had killed the town’s imam, perhaps to usurp his authority as a Muslim leader.
The BBC visited the town and toured the recaptured area with Chadian and Nigerien soldiers:
The Nigerian outlet NAIJ notes that the foreign troops have not yet seen signs of the Nigerian army returning to reclaim the land. (Most of the civilian population of Damasak, around 3,000, fled.) “As far as I know, as of yesterday, the Nigerian army has still not arrived in the area. We are waiting,” one source told the publication, stating that the militaries “had yet to receive a response” after alerting Abuja of the recapture of Damasak.
While Nigeria initially warmly welcomed international aid for eliminating Boko Haram, tensions have surfaced between Nigeria and Chad in particular. In early March, Chad’s Daily Trust newspaper reported that the Chadian army had been asked not to proceed in fighting Boko Haram in the northeast, with unnamed Chadian sources telling Reuters that Chad’s government believed President Jonathan did not want Chad to succeed so much as to “embarrass” the Nigerian army and thus perhaps damage his chances of being reelected on March 28. (The date has been moved up to accommodate northeastern voters displaced by Boko Haram.)