The State Department condemns “the recent escalation of attacks on civilians carried out by Boko Haram” in the wake of the Baga massacre, “which shows no regard for human life.”
“All those responsible for these recurring terrorist attacks must be held accountable,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement issued Friday night.
“The United States abhors such violence, which continues to take a terrible toll on the people of Nigeria and the broader region, including Cameroon. We extend our sympathies to the loved ones of all victims of violence at the hands of Boko Haram,” Psaki continued.
“The United States is committed to working with Nigeria and its neighbors to end the scourge of Boko Haram. We urge Nigeria and its neighbors to take all possible steps to address the urgent threat of Boko Haram. Even in the face of these horrifying attacks, terrorist organizations like Boko Haram must not distract Nigeria from carrying out credible and peaceful elections that reflect the will of the Nigerian people.”
The White House hasn’t commented since the extent of the Jan. 3 attack on Baga, in Borno state, came to light.
“The attack on Baga and surrounding towns, looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act in a catalogue of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group. If reports that the town was largely razed to the ground and that hundreds or even as many as two thousand civilians were killed are true, this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, adding that they’re working to get more details from the terrorist-controlled area.
Survivors’ grisly tales have been surfacing. From Agence France-Presse:
Yanaye Grema hid for three days between a wall and his neighbours’ house, as Boko Haram fighters ransacked his hometown of Baga on the shore of Lake Chad in Nigeria’s far northeast.
The 38-year-old fisherman already knew the attack was serious: he joined civilian vigilantes to defend the town but their simple weapons were no match for the Islamists’ superior firepower.
“People fled into the bush while some shut themselves indoors,” he said of last Saturday’s attack.
“The gunmen pursued fleeing residents into the bush, shooting them dead,” he told AFP from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
But it was only after breaking cover on Tuesday night that he realised the true scale of the attack, which it is feared may be one of the worst in the six-year insurgency.
“For five kilometres (three miles), I kept stepping on dead bodies until I reached Malam Karanti village, which was also deserted and burnt,” he said.
Boko Haram has razed at least 16 towns near the shores of Lake Chad. Some people trying to flee across Lake Chad in canoes drowned when overloaded boats capsized.
From Voice of America:
One survivor said “hundreds” of insurgents rode into Baga on motorbikes and other vehicles, some throwing explosives. They set fire to buildings and triggered a fierce gunfight with Nigerian soldiers.
The soldiers resisted “for hours,” said an intelligence official in Maiduguri, telling VOA that they could not hold the town without reinforcements.
Insurgents had blocked the main roads. Residents fled into the bush or headed for Lake Chad to hop in canoes or try to swim away. Some drowned. Other residents were shot or injured. The number of dead and wounded is not known.
A fisherman who escaped told VOA some soldiers were peeling off their uniforms and begging for civilian clothes. He said they appeared to have run out of ammunition.
A new 17-minute video from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was posted Monday on YouTube.
“Oh Paul Biya, if you don’t stop this, your evil plot, you will taste what has befallen Nigeria … Your troops cannot do anything to us,” Shekau said to Cameroon President Paul Biya. The country’s government has been fighting infiltrating terrorists in the country’s north.
If the Catholic president Biya, who has vowed to “wipe out” Boko Haram, does not “repent,” Shekau said, “you will see what will come from Allah, the all-powerful who has control over everything in respect of chastisement and calamity.”
“Your troops are nothing. Even Nigerian soldiers couldn’t do anything to us. Even U.S. troops couldn’t do anything to us. Not even the troops of the whole world.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked Monday if Boko Haram’s gains meant that U.S. strategy in the region is not working.
“It shows that — that there is — you know, that they face a very serious threat in Nigeria. And you know, the — the United States is — it does have this relationship with Nigeria that we value. It’s a military-to-military relationship. We also share some other intelligence assets that have been deployed to fight Boko Haram,” Earnest responded. “But this is certainly something that we’re concerned about.”
At the United Nations this week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon Boko Haram to be peaceful.
“I urge Boko Haram’s leaders to end the destruction of so many lives and communities, and immediately and unconditionally release the kidnapped school girls and all others. The international community cannot let human rights abuses continue with impunity,” Ban said.
“This is my personal appeal. As a father and grandfather and as Secretary-General, I will continue to actively explore with Member States what more can be done.”
The UN reported Friday that the number of Nigerians seeking safety in neighboring Chad has nearly quadrupled over the past 10 days.
Most of the 7,300 Nigerians have been taken in by villages in western Chad, where the government has requested international assistance with food and medical aid for the refugees.
A 10-year-old girl blew herself up in a crowded market in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, on Saturday. Boko Haram, which has been forcing children to act as suicide bombers, is suspected.