The tiny village of Damasak in northeast Nigeria is arguably the most terror-ravaged in the region, save those completely razed to the ground. After months of fighting terrorist group Boko Haram and finally being able to survey the damage of their occupation, Nigerian authorities discovered “hundreds” of decaying bodies lining the streets, homes, and businesses of what is now a ghost town.
Nigeria’s Vanguard reports that Nigerian and Chadian military officials, who entered the town together after finally confirming that Boko Haram terrorists had left, had no official tally for the number of bodies, though witnesses claim it to be upwards of 400. This is the second discovery of a mass of bodies in Damasak; the first, in March, was a mass grave holding about 100 bodies that had been decomposing since January, according to Chadian army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa Agouna.
Those found dead today appear to have also died months before, left to decay in the hot Nigerian sun. Speaking to the Agence France-Presse, Kaumi Kusur, a Damasak local, claimed the new finding “far outnumbered” the mass grave and explained that bodies “were found in houses, streets and many more in the Damasak River which has dried up.” Another local provided the 400-body estimate.
“I know that there was a large-scale atrocity, but I cannot tell you the precise number of dead bodies,” said Nigerian Senator-elect Abubakar Kyari at a press conference on Monday. Officials stated at that press conference that they had re-entered Damasak to assess the damage and estimate when it would be possible for surviving residents to return, but committee member Mohammed Aji said this appeared impossible. Damasak, he said, was “in shambles. Houses, especially the market areas, were destroyed. Some buildings like government offices burned completely by the Boko Haram terrorists before they finally left.”
The Nigerian military’s discovery of a mass grave in March was followed by the proclamation to residents that Boko Haram had definitively left and that they could return to rebuild their village. Residents did so, and three days later Boko Haram terrorists returned and kidnapped between 350-500 residents. Coalition military forces, including Chadian soldiers, spent the next month working to eradicate Boko Haram from the town.
Last week, Chadian officials announced that they had returned to Damasak and found 43 children hiding from Boko Haram all over town. The children had been abducted in Chad for use as child soldiers and used the disorder in Damasak to run away and hide from the terrorists while they slaughtered villagers. Nigerian officials vowed to work to find the children’s families and reunite them.