Locals in Baga, Nigeria say the town is one of the latest targets of Boko Haram’s attacks, while a group of soldiers say they will not fight the militants until they have more adequate equipment.
Residents of the isolated village on the shore of Lake Chad in Borno, Nigeria's northeasternmost state, told the BBC that the radical Islamist group swept through on Aug. 10, killing 26 people and kidnapping 50 others.
According to their reports, villagers tried to fight off the attackers but were unsuccessful. Boko Haram then burnt down houses and abducted a group of 50 people made up of mostly women and children.
Baga was also the scene of an April, 2013 massacre in which some 200 villagers were killed and 2,000 homes and businesses destroyed. Villagers claimed that the massacre was carried out by the Nigerian military, while the Nigerian military in turn blamed Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful”, began using military force in 2009 to impose sharia law on Nigeria. It has targeted security forces, politicians, Christian minorities, and moderate Muslims in Nigeria’s predominately Muslim north.
Boko Haram gained international attention in April when it claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of nearly 300 teenaged school girls, the majority of whom are still missing.
Nigeria's government has proven unable to counter the insurgents, and on Aug. 19 a group 40 of soldiers said that they will not face the insurgents until they’ve received more adequate equipment.
“The Nigerian army is not ready to fight Boko Haram,” one soldier told the BBC. “Soldiers are dying like fowl.”
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos voiced similar concerns speaking to Aid to the Church in Need. He told the charity July 31 that there are “serious sympathizers” of the Islamist group “both in and outside Nigeria,” but “up to now our government has not been able to smoke them out … there should be ways to trace financing and other forms of support, but I don’t believe that our government is making this a top priority.”
“Despite lots of money spent by our government and the military, answers are still grossly lacking.”
The militants seized the riot police training academy for Borno state Aug. 20. It is located near Gwoza, a city of 50,000, which Boko Haram has held control of since the beginning of the month – attempts by the Nigerian military to retake the city have failed.
The academy is one of two in Nigeria, and Boko Haram have likely found weapons there, according to Mahmud Lalo of BBC Hausa.
In his interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Kaigama added that “at first we thought that (Boko Haram) were simply against Western education and wanted to propagate what they believed was the authentic message of Islam … then they went after the government, and next came the churches.”
The archbishop has stressed the importance of remaining present to his people even as the threat of Boko Haram looms.
“We believe God is with us. We believe that we will triumph despite the machinations of the evildoers.”
He also noted that both Christians and Muslims have been victims of the militant group’s attacks.
“We must not forget that Muslim places of worship have also been targets. The repeated attacks in Kano and Kaduna show that the fight has gone beyond the religions of Islam and Christianity. In fact, many Muslims and Christians of good will are speaking a common language now and are exploring ways to bring an end to this menace.”
Boko Haram’s attacks have killed thousands since 2009, including at least 2,000 in 2014 alone. The UN estimates that the attacks have led to more than 470,000 internally displaced persons, and some 57,000 refugees.
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