Report: Nigerian Army Massacred Children, Forced Abortions During Battle with Boko Haram

Nigerian Army soldiers stand at a base in Baga on August 2, 2019. - Intense fighting betwe
AUDU MARTE/AFP via Getty Images

Reuters on Monday published a report that accused the Nigerian military of massacring children during its battles with Boko Haram and other jihadi groups.

Last week, another Reuters report said the Nigerian military has been running a forced abortion program for almost a decade in the region occupied by militant groups.

Monday’s report on child massacres quoted 44 civilian and 15 military eyewitnesses, who said Nigerian forces deliberately killed the “children of Boko Haram.” The children were often killed and buried in mass graves along with their mothers and fathers.

“Soldiers and armed guards employed by the government told Reuters army commanders repeatedly ordered them to ‘delete’ children, because the children were assumed to be collaborating with militants in Boko Haram or its Islamic State offshoot, or to have inherited the tainted blood of insurgent fathers,” the report alleged.

“Soldiers selected babies and toddlers for killing after rescuing them and their mothers from Islamist militants; rounded youths up for interrogation and killing in raids of homes and marketplaces; or slaughtered children along with adult civilians in counterterrorism operations that were intended to leave no survivors,” the report continued.

Reuters conducted a detailed investigation of six incidents with at least 60 young victims, but the authors cited estimates that “thousands” of children have been killed over the past 13 years. Numerous parents told reporters their children were taken away by the military years ago, and they don’t know if the missing youths are alive.

“I don’t see them as children, I see them as Boko Haram. If I get my hands on them, I won’t shoot them, I will slit their throats … I enjoy it,” a Nigerian soldier whose best friend was killed by the insurgents told researchers.

Other soldiers told Reuters they were willing to fire on children because Boko Haram and other jihadi groups recruit them as child soldiers or “human bombs.” 

Nigerian military officials denied the allegations and insisted their troops are professionals who are “trained to protect lives, even at their own risk, especially when it concerns the lives of children, women and the elderly.”

Reuters, however, noted there have been previous allegations from human rights groups and the International Criminal Court concerning civilian and child killings. The Nigerian government investigated accusations of extrajudicial killings by its military forces in 2015, but the investigation was abandoned.

Last Wednesday, Reuters reported on a “secret, systematic, and illegal abortion program” in northeastern Nigeria that terminated at least 10,000 pregnancies since 2013. 

The subjects were often women who were “kidnapped and raped by Islamist militants.” These women were “beaten, held at gunpoint, or drugged into compliance” when they resisted.

A woman testifying under the pseudonym “Fati” described her experience after she was rescued from forced marriage to jihadis:

About a week later, Fati said, she lay on a mat in a narrow, dim room at a military barracks in Maiduguri, the state capital. It was rank, with cockroaches skittering across the floor. Uniformed men came in and out, giving her and five other women mysterious injections and pills.

After about four hours, said Fati, who was about four months pregnant, she felt searing pain in her stomach and black blood seeped out of her. The other women were bleeding as well, and writhing on the floor. “The soldiers want to kill us,” she thought.

Fati said she and the other women subjected to these crude forced abortions were told they would be “seriously beaten” if they told anyone about their ordeal.

Reuters interviewed 33 women who said they were subjected to abortions while in the custody of the Nigerian military. Only one of them said she consented to the procedure. Some of the girls who were forced to have abortions were as young as 12. Some of the subjects did not survive their forced abortions. 

“Three soldiers and a guard said they commonly assured women, who often were debilitated from captivity in the bush, that the pills and injections given to them were to restore their health and fight diseases such as malaria,” the report said.

As with the report of children killed during the battle with Boko Haram, Nigerian military officials denied the forced abortion allegations and accused Reuters of slander.

“The fictitious series of stories actually constitute a body of insults on the Nigerian peoples and culture. Nigerian military personnel have been raised, bred and further trained to protect lives, even at their own risk, especially when it concerns the lives of children, women and the elderly,” Nigerian Maj. Gen. Jimmy Akpor said.


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