Violence erupted across northern Nigeria in the towns surrounding Baga as Boko Haram militants raided local villages and burned homes, going on a senseless killing spree that left only death and destruction in their wake. This series of raids by the radical Boko Haram group comes after a recent assault on an international military base stationed in Baga.
The militants stormed the city of Baga and some 16 surrounding towns last weekend in trucks and armored vehicles, and have continued their raids throughout the week. CNN News reports that the fleeing villagers were gunned down, and those who hid in their homes were burned alive. Dead bodies littered the streets and surrounding bushes. The death toll estimates range from a few hundred to as many as 2,000 people.
Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, remarked that these recent attacks may be Boko Haram’s most vicious massacres, and he fears that the violence will only continue to escalate.
“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.”
At least 30,000 villagers now find themselves without homes, and many have fled to the capital of the Borno state, Maiduguri City, after the attacks. Over 7,000 refugees have escaped to Chad, and other residents have fled to Cameroon.
The most recent slaughtering by Boko Haram militants coincided with the start of President Goodluck Jonathan’s reelection campaign, which took place in the city of Lagos as thousands flocked to the streets and participated in the political rally. The presidential and government elections are scheduled to be held on February 14, and violence is predicted to escalate as election day approaches.
Boko Haram members are part of a radical Islamist group who do not believe in elections and the principle of democracy. The recent attacks will undoubtedly strike fear in many voters and potentially result in low voter turnout during the upcoming elections or even a complete close to voting in the northern region of Nigeria. The country’s national election commission, however, is determined not to postpone the elections despite the mounting attacks by Boko Haram militants.