Bodies burnt beyond recognition and civilians used as human shields, as 185 die in fighting between Boko Haram Islamic extremists and the Nigerian military

  • @johnmatthewhall

At least 185 people having been killed in fighting between Boko Haram Islamic extremists and the Nigerian military.

The violence took place in a small fishing village called Baga in northern Nigeria and marks a significant escalation in the long-running insurgency in the country.

The fighting involved an attack that saw insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers spray machine-gun fire into neighbourhoods filled with civilians, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad. Homes, businesses and vehicles throughout the area were also burnt to the ground.

The killings mark one of the deadliest incidents to involve Boko Haram to date, with the practice of a co-ordinated assault on soldiers using military-grade weaponry a dramatic advance on the group’s typically crude methods.

The authorities had found and buried at least 185 bodies as of yesterday afternoon, said Lawan Kole, a local government official in Baga.

Officials could not offer a breakdown of civilian casualties against those of soldiers and extremist fighters as many of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition in fires that destroyed whole sections of the town, residents said.

Those killed were buried as soon as possible, following local Muslim tradition.

Brigadier General Austin Edokpaye said Boko Haram extremists used heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the assault.

It began after soldiers surrounded a mosque they believed housed members of the radical Islamic extremist network.

Extremists earlier had killed a military officer, the general said. He added that extremists used civilians as human shields during the fighting.