Human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, has disclosed that no fewer that 1,000 civilians have been killed from attacks by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram in 2015, based on witness accounts and an analysis of media reports.
According to the organisation, interviews in late January with people who fled Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno states in northeastern Nigeria revealed horrific levels of brutality. Since mid-2014, Boko Haram fighters have seized control of scores of towns and villages covering 17 local government areas in these northeastern states, some of which were recaptured by Nigerian and Chadian forces in March 2015.
“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” said Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”
The finding is an indication of the human toll of the conflict between Boko Haram and forces from from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency says that nearly one million people have been forced to flee since the Islamist rebel group began its violent uprising in July 2009.
During 2014, Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 3,750 civilians died during Boko Haram attacks in these areas. Attacks in the first quarter of 2015 have increased compared to the same period in 2014, including seven suicide bombings allegedly using women and children.
The group also abducted hundreds of women and girls many of whom were subjected to forced conversion, forced marriage, rape, and other abuse. Scores of young men and boys were forced to join Boko Haram’s ranks or face death, according to Human Rights Watch research. Hundreds of thousands of residents were forced to flee the area, either because Boko Haram fighters ordered them to leave or out of fear for their lives.
Displaced people told Human Rights Watch they had fled with only the clothes on their backs after witnessing killings and the burning of their homes and communities by Boko Haram, and in one case by Nigerian security forces.
Displaced people also described targeted burning of schools by Boko Haram, and a few instances in which government forces took over schools. Deliberate attacks on schools and other civilian structures not being used for military purposes are war crimes. Attacks on schools by Boko Haram, displacement as a result of attacks on villages, and the use of schools by Nigerian army soldiers not only damage schools but interfere with access to education for thousands of children in the northeast.
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