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‘Climate of Fear’ in Nigeria’s Battle With Boko Haram

By Jack Phillips
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 1, 2012 Last Updated: November 3, 2012
Related articles: World » Africa
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A rescue worker inspects the burnt-out wreckage of cars and motorcycles destroyed by multiple explosions and armed assailants in the Marhaba area of the northern Nigerian city of Kano, on January 21, 2012. (Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images)

A rescue worker inspects the burnt-out wreckage of cars and motorcycles destroyed by multiple explosions and armed assailants in the Marhaba area of the northern Nigerian city of Kano, on January 21, 2012. (Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images)

The Nigerian government’s quest to rid the country of the hard-line Islamist sect Boko Haram has resulted in making the situation even worse, creating a climate of fear, warns rights group Amnesty International in a new report Thursday.

Boko Haram, which translated from the local Hausa language means “Western education is sinful,” has masterminded and claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks across Nigeria. The group has bombed churches, mosques, newspapers, phone towers, government buildings, and others—mainly in the Muslim north, prompting the Nigerian military to crack down hard on the group in recent months.

The conflict between Boko Haram, considered a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, and Nigeria’s security forces has caused “devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle,” stated Salil Shetty, the head of Amnesty International. 

“[The soldier] put his gun in [my husband’s] left ear and said, ‘Say your last prayer,’ then he put the gun in his right ear and said, ‘Say your last prayer’ and then they put the gun in his nose and said, ‘Say your last prayer,’” a 40-year-old mother of seven, identified as F.B. from Maiduguri Province, was quoted by Amnesty as saying. 

She and her children now live in a shack she built from the remains of her house, which was burned down by security forces.

The report said the increasing climate of fear perpetrated by both sides has led to people not reporting crimes committed and journalists not reporting on the situation for fear of retribution.

“People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them,” Shetty continued.

Both the Nigerian government and Boko Haram have carried out crimes against humanity in the guerrilla-style conflict. 

Boko Haram said it wants to wage war against the Nigerian state to impose Shariah across the country. 

Since June 2010, the group has killed at least 1,000 people in bomb attacks and assassinations, including killing dozens in the bombings of several churches across Nigeria on Christmas Day of last year. Boko Haram has also burned down a number of schools and has frequently targeted journalists operating in the country.

“At the station we know we are living between death and life,” a radio presenter from the northern city of Kano, where Boko Haram has carried out numerous attacks, told Amnesty.

The London-based rights group said that many Nigerians around the country have been held by security forces without due process or being accused of any criminal charges. 

It said that some suspected militants have been held in shackles for days, forced to sit in their own excrement, and in overcrowded cells.

The group also accused Nigerian security forces of torture, forced disappearances, beatings, extrajudicial killings, and burning down homes.

Another man told the group that his brother had been arrested by Nigerian security forces, and eventually he found his brother’s dead body at a local police station.

“There were [what looked like] cable marks on his body, bruises everywhere. … The right side of his head was bruised. There was shock on his face. I can’t forget that,” the man said.

“I haven’t made a complaint,” he added. “I’m afraid.”

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