Laurie Hanna, Daily Mail, January 15, 2015
The destruction wreaked by Islamist militants in Nigeria when they slaughtered an estimated 2,500 people including a woman while she was in labour has been revealed in shocking new satellite images.
Terror group Boko Haram outraged the world last week when they indiscriminately murdered innocent men, women and children as they attacked the towns of Baga and Doron Baga.
Now, new images obtained by Amnesty International show how the towns were devastated by the assault–with more than 3,700 structures including houses and schools completely destroyed.
The destruction shown in these images matches the horrific stories from eyewitnesses revealing how Boko Haram militants shot hundreds of civilians in cold blood.
One witness described how the ruthless terror group were shooting indiscriminately, killing even small children and a woman who was in labour.
He added: ‘Half of the baby boy is out and she died like this.’
Ibrahim Gambo, a 25-year-old truck driver, survived the relentless attack in Baga but he still doesn’t know if his wife and daughter are safe.
He said: ‘As we were running for our lives, we came across many corpses, both men and women, and even children.
‘Some had gunshot wounds in the head and some had their legs bound and hands tied behind their backs.’
Yahaya Takakumi, a 55-year-old farmer, revealed to Nigeria’s Premium Times how he managed to flee Baga with one of his wives–but does not know if his four children, his second wife or his elder brother managed to escape.
He said: ‘We saw dead bodies especially, on the islands of Lake Chad where fishermen had settled. Several persons were killed there like insects.’
Mr Takakumi said the Islamic extremists opened fire on vessels carrying fleeing residents across the lake.
Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, said this was the ‘largest and most destructive’ Boko Haram assault his organisation has ever analysed.
He added: ‘These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days.
‘It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.
‘Up until now, the isolation of the Baga, combined with the fact that Boko Haram remains in control of the area, has meant that it has been very difficult to verify what happened there.
‘Residents have not been able to return to bury the dead, let alone count their number. But through these satellite images combined with graphic testimonies a picture of what is likely to be Boko Haram’s deadliest attack ever is becoming clearer.’
Experts have estimated the brutal assault killed more than 2,000 people with reports of locals running over dead bodies to escape the carnage.
Another survivor–a man in his fifties–told Amnesty: ‘They killed so many people. 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.’
He hid in the bush and was later discovered by Boko Haram fighters, who detained him in Doron Baga for four days.
Those who fled describe seeing many more corpses in the surrounding bush area, and one woman said: ‘I don’t know how many, but there were bodies everywhere we looked.’
In Baga, a densely populated town less than two square kilometres in size, approximately 620 structures were damaged or completely destroyed by fire.
And in Doron Baga, more than 3,100 structures were damaged or destroyed by fire that ravaged most of the four square kilometre town.
Mr Eyre added: ‘This week, Nigeria’s Director of Defence Information stated that the number of people killed in Baga, including Boko Haram fighters, ‘has so far not exceeded about 150’.
‘These images, together with the stories of those who survived the attack, suggest that the final death toll could be much higher than this figure.’
Boko Haram fighters have repeatedly targeted communities for their perceived collaboration with the security forces.
Thousands of people have fled the violence across the border to Chad and to other parts of Nigeria.
Many of the wooden fishing boats along the shoreline, visible in the images taken on January 2, are no longer present in January 7 images–tallying with eye witnesses’ testimony that desperate residents fled by boat across Lake Chad.
Amnesty are calling on Boko Haram to stop killing civilians. They insist the deliberate slaughter of of civilians and destruction of their property by Boko Haram are war crimes and crimes against humanity and must be duly investigated.
They are calling for the Nigerian government should take all possible legal steps to restore security in the north-east and ensure protections of civilians.
Boko Haram drew international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in north-east Chibok last year. Dozens escaped, but 219 remain missing.