By: Rachel Cain – Staff Writer
Several weeks ago, the terrorist organization Boko Haram stormed a fishing village in northeast Nigeria in an unprecedented violent attack that resulted in the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians and the displacement of a huge population of Nigerians.
Boko Haram is fighting to implement a stricter form of Sharia law across Nigeria. They have terrorized northern Nigeria regularly since 2009, according to CNN.
The death toll could be as high as 2,000, making this attack on Baga, Nigeria, Boko Haram’s “deadliest act” yet, according to Amnesty International.
According to the BBC, the violence began at 5 a.m. Jan. 3, when Boko Haram militants attacked a military base of the Multi-National Joint Task Force.
The terrorists quickly gained control of the base and then continued to attack the nearby town of Baga and its surrounding villages.
“When they neutralized the soldiers, they proceed to Baga and started killing everyone on sight,” a witness informed the New York Times. “There was no pity in their eyes. Even old men and children were killed.”
According to CNN, some residents tried to seek cover in the bush, hiding in their houses or swimming across the bordering Lake Chad. Many who attempted to seek safety in these manners were shot, burned in their homes or drowned.
“They killed so many people,” a witness told Amnesty International. “I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing.”
The attack lasted six days, according to the BBC.
As of yet there is no official count for the bodies because Baga’s local government officials believe it is too unsafe to recover the bodies, reported CNN. Predictions for the death toll range from the hundreds to 2,000.
Conditions still remain unsafe for the residents trapped in Baga.
Witnesses told Amnesty International that Boko Haram seized the women, children and elderly who had attempted to flee and detained them in a school for several days. Most of the younger women remain in captivity.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 7,300 refugees recently arrived in Chad as a result of the attacks.
About 5,000 survivors are in a refugee camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, the capital city of the Borno state, the same state where Baga is located. However, the UNHCR has advised neighboring countries to cease sending Nigerian refugees to Maiduguri because of recent violence by Boko Haram in the area.
The motivation for the attack remains unclear. Amnesty International suggested Baga may have been attacked because of its collaboration with the state-sponsored militia group known as the Civilian Joint Task Force, which was involved in attacks against Boko Haram.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Boko Haram stormed the village to command citizens not to vote in the upcoming presidential election in February.
Mike Omeri, Nigeria’s national security spokesman, reported that Nigerian troops have engaged in airstrikes and other military operations to reclaim Baga—but Abubakar Gamandi, a Baga native who was away during the attack, told CNN this is not true.
“From information we are receiving from residents nearby, not a single Nigerian soldier has shown up in Baga since it was seized by Boko Haram,” Gamandi said. “It is all propaganda.”
Andrew Evwaraye, Ph.D., of the physics department at UD grew up in Nigeria, and although he has spent most of his life in the United States, he said he still considers Nigeria home.
“When you hear about bombs in your country, and the kidnapped girls, it’s very unsettling,” Evwaraye said, referring to a previous Boko Haram attack in which the group kidnapped almost 300 school girls. “Nobody knows what is going to happen with Boko Haram.”
Evwaraye said his family lives in southern Nigeria, away from Boko Haram’s violence.
“The desire to attack civilians is a part of the terrorist agenda because it provides spectacular attention for their cause to make themselves seem prominent,” Joel Pruce, Ph.D., a professor in the political science department at UD said.
According to Amnesty International, Boko Haram killed more than 4,000 civilians during 2014 alone.