Boko Haram's deadliest massacre yet: 2,000 dead

The Nigerian military, hollowed out by corruption, has proved itself incapable of fighting the militants. Security analysts say that what is even more worrisome is the fact that officers and soldiers have shown little interest in taking the fight to the Islamists, and most of them flee at the sight of trouble.

In a response, local citizens have formed their own defense associations. “The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous,” Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for poorly armed civilians in a defense group that fights Boko Haram, told the AP.

He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies. “No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now,” Gava said.

An Amnesty International statement said reports from the scene say the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.

If true, “this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.

The previous deadliest day in the war between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government was 14 March 2014: Earlier that day, Boko Haram militants broke into the Giwa military barracks in Maiduguri city and freed detainees held there by the government. Nigerian army soldiers unleashed indiscriminate fire on what they thought were the fleeing detainees, gunning down unarmed people everywhere inside and in the vicinity of the barracks. In all, the soldiers killed more than 600 people that day, most of them having nothing to do with Boko Haram.

Critics say that this was but one example of the heavy-handed and indiscriminate approach by the Nigerian government – an approach which has alienated a large segment of the population in northeast Nigeria who were supposed to be protected by the government campaign.

The bloody attack on Baga come five weeks before the Nigerian presidential elections – elections which are likely to be the cause of even more bloodshed in the weeks to come. The three northeastern states, where the Boko Haram’s terror campaign has been most intense, have been under an emergency rule since May 2013. The leaders of these states have earlier last week asked the central government for more troops.

The government insists that voting will take place in the three states as planned, but international observers say that the worsening security situation there would be used by the government to deny clearance to international observers to oversee the voting – something the government would not mind, since those states, especially the state of Borno, have traditionally been opposition-supporting.

Also, about 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the government’s inability to cope with the Boko Haram campaign, meaning that, under current election law in Nigeria, they will not be able to vote.

The government has made no official comment on Baga massacres. President Goodluck Jonathan barely touched on security issues last Thursday, when he launched his re-election campaign in front of thousands of cheering supporters in Lagos.

Boko Haram began its campaign of violence in 2009, and according to the Council on Foreign Relations, this campaign killed more than 10,000 people last year alone. In addition to the 1.5 million people displaced inside Nigeria, hundreds of thousands have fled across its borders into Chad and Cameroon.