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Nigeria Is Caught Between Military Abuses and Islamist Rebels

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
June 18, 2013


A month after President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency on northern Nigeria, the first eyewitness accounts are only now emerging about the Nigerian military's brutality. The state of emergency, accompanied by a troop surge, is the centerpiece of a government effort to quash Boko Haram, the northern based Islamist insurgency. Accompanying this offensive is a cell phone and media blackout. Humanitarian organizations have been denied access to areas of military operation and local politicians have largely fled in fear. Government spokesmen claim unverified success after success, especially in border areas adjoining Niger and Cameroon, where the military is arresting Boko Haram members.

Nevertheless, witnesses are now reporting massive civilian casualties as people are caught between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military. On May 31, Al Jazeera reported unverified accounts that far more civilians, including women and children, have been killed than Boko Haram members. The Nigerian government denied this report. Then on June 6, the New York Times, interviewing Nigerian refugees who fled to neighboring Niger, reported a general climate of terror, including stories of young men being rounded up, disappearances in the night, and indiscriminate killing.

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