Suspected insurgents of the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, brutally disrupted yesterday’s early morning prayers (Zuhr) at Buni Gari village in Yobe State, killing at least 20 worshipers.
The worshipers were just gathering for the prayer, the first of the five daily by Muslims, when the gun wielding insurgents opened fire, eye witness Musa Ibrahim said.
Buni Gari is about 100 kilometers south of Damaturu, the state capital.
Mosques have frequently been targeted by militants who threaten Muslim clerics who preach against their extremist doctrine.
More than 1,200 civilians have been killed this year amid more frequent and deadlier attacks by the sect.
And overnight, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members swept across the border into northern Cameroun and abducted two Italian priests and a Canadian nun in Maroua.
The London-based human rights organization, Amnesty International, in a report last week claimed that more than 1500 people were killed in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states since the beginning of this year.
It cited the March 14 Boko Haram attack on Giwa Barracks, the largest military facility in Maiduguri, and said that the sect members ‘staged a successful break into the detention centre and released all of those being held.”
It said that Boko Haram “gave those freed the option of joining them or going home. Most chose the home option. Boko Haram then withdrew. Shortly thereafter the security forces reoccupied the facility.
“With the help of the Civilian Joint Task Force, a locally based vigilante group, the security forces then hunted down all of those who had escaped and murdered most of them.”
Amnesty, quoting ‘eye witnesses’ estimated that over 600 people were killed.
Besides, it said that “many of the inmates were emaciated and without shoes. Many also had scars indicating abuse. All of the inmates were unarmed.”
The Amnesty report also profiled rampant human rights violations by Boko Haram.
The Defence Headquarters, responding to the Amnesty allegations at the weekend, said it was launching an investigation into the claims.
The DHQ said the investigation was to establish the veracity of the claim and for the authorities to take necessary action to address any human rights breach by troops.
The Defence spokesman, Major General Chris Olukolade said that while the Amnesty International report did not reflect the true position of things in the military operation, the authorities found the allegation too confounding to ignore.
He said:”This report is a new dimension to the well-known fact that the security operation in that part of the country was necessitated by the need to address the gross abuse of human rights being perpetrated against Nigerians by the terrorists.
“It is noteworthy that despite the peculiar asymmetric nature of the security challenge, measures have been put in place to ensure compliance with tenets of human rights and rules of engagement by troops involved in the conduct of the mission.
“Apart from inculcating the necessity for observance of human rights in troops, regular programmes have been conducted to review the human rights situation related to the conduct of the operations.”
The military said it was in adherence to respect for human rights that most of those apprehended in the counter-terrorist operations are being kept in custody.
He said the detention facilities have been visited by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) including International Committee of the Red Cross and others to verify the conditions of detainees, adding: “this is even in the face of destruction of relevant amenities by the terrorists who have burnt down prisons, courts and government facilities in that part of the country in the course of their ceaseless attacks.
“The claim contained in the Amnesty International’s report attributing gross abuses of human right of Nigerians to both the terrorists and the security forces is quite confounding.”
Italy’s foreign ministry said yesterday that two Italian priests and a Canadian nun were kidnapped overnight by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram members in northern Cameroun.
The attack occurred in Maroua, close to the border with Nigeria, according to Italy’s Ansa news agency.
The Islamist sect, Boko Haram, freely operates across Nigeria’s Northeast and Cameroun’s Northwest.
The Italian foreign ministry said that two priests from Italy’s northern Vicenza region had been seized, but gave no other details.
Armed gunmen pulled up to the buildings where the priests and the nun were staying around 2am and ransacked them before taking the hostages, added the Ansa news agency.
The attack comes three months after the release of French priest Georges Vandenbeusch, who was kidnapped in the same region in mid-November 2013 and then held in Nigeria by Boko Haram.
One of the two priests taken on Friday night had been in Cameroun for more than six years while the second had arrived around a year ago, Ansa reported.
Authorities in Vincenza, where the priests were from, were not immediately available for comment.