KANO (AFP) – Nigerian soldiers shot dead dozens of young men in an embattled northeastern city during raids in four areas considered strongholds of a radical Islamist group, residents and a morgue attendant told AFP Friday.
Residents of Maiduguri, the home base of Boko Haram Islamists, said the troops who swarmed late Thursday ordered males in their teens and early 20s to separate from others in the neighbourhood.
In the Kalari area, they told the young men “to lie face down on the ground,” then asked the rest to look away.
“All we heard were gunshots. They shot them on the spot,” said the elderly resident, who did not want to be named.
“They did the same in three other neighbourhoods. We went to the morgue to collect the bodies and we found 48 in all.”
A resident of the city’s Gwange area told AFP that the alleged massacre was “like a movie scene.”
The troops “picked young men from their homes and were shooting them dead before everyone and took the bodies away to the hospital. I have never seen something like this,” he said, also requesting that his name be withheld.
The Sabon Lamba and Gomboru neighbourhoods were also said to have been raided.
A morgue attendant at the Maiduguri General Hospital said they “received 39 bodies yesterday which were brought in by soldiers. They all have fresh gunshot wounds.”
A military source declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by AFP, saying only that if such killings had taken place, they were “unjustified”.
Maiduguri is the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency which is estimated to have left 2,800 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces.
Amnesty International has charged Nigeria’s security forces with committing massive rights violations, including summary executions, in the campaign to crush the Islamists.
In its report released Thursday, the rights group documented a series of alleged extra-judicial killings by the military and police in Maiduguri.
The military dismissed Amnesty’s allegations and has consistently denied similar reports in the past, but residents have on several occasions accused soldiers of firing indiscriminately on unarmed people, often following attacks on its personnel.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with an estimated 160 million people, where most in the north are Muslim. The south is predominately Christian.
Boko Haram has struck most often in the northeast, but its attacks have stretched across the broader north and down to central Nigeria.
In addition to the security forces, Christians, government officials, and other symbols of authority have been targetted.