Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram as Islamist group 'kidnaps 100 women and children' in remote village raid

The men were accused of refusing to deploy to recapture three towns seized by Boko Haram earlier this year

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Dozens of Nigerian soldiers have been sentenced to death by firing squad for refusing to fight Islamic extremists within the country.

The men were accused of refusing to deploy to recapture three towns seized by Nigeria's home-grown militant group Boko Haram earlier this year, according to the charge sheet.

Lawyer Femi Falana, who was representing the condemned men, said 54 soldiers were convicted and sentenced to death while five soldiers were acquitted on Wednesday.

All of the soldiers were accused of "conspiring to commit mutiny against the authorities of 7 Division, Nigerian Army", which is fighting in the northeast of the country.

It has today been reported that Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped more than 100 women and children and killed 35 people during a raid on Sunday on the remote village of Gumskiri.

nigerian-soldiers.jpg
In this Wednesday, October 15, 2014 file photo, soldiers accused of refusing to fight in the country's northeastern Islamic uprising appear before a court martial in Abuja, Nigeria (AP)

The militant group has seized a string of towns and villages and declared an Islamic caliphate in August along Nigeria's border with Cameroon.

Troops regularly complain they are outgunned by the militant group, while some have also claimed they were not paid in full or were "abandoned" on the battlefield without enough ammunition or food.

In September, 12 soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny and attempted murder of the commanding officer in the counter-insurgency.

He was blamed by the soldiers for the deaths of other soldiers who were ambushed after being ordered to drive at night on a road often attacked by militants.

More recently, Special Forces have recaptured at least four towns with help from air raids, traditional hunters and vigilantes.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful", has been conducting a five-year campaign for an Islamic state, which has become the greatest menace to the security of Africa's biggest economy.

Although no one has yet claimed Sunday's attack on the remote village of Gumskiri, it bore the hallmarks of the militant group.

In a similar assault in April, the group abducted 200 women from a secondary school in Chibok.

Maina Chibok, who did not witness the attack in Gumskiri but is from the village and visited her family there shortly afterwards, said: "They gathered the people, shot dead over 30 people and took away more than 100 women and children in two open top trucks."

She went on to say: "They also burnt down a government medical centre, houses and shops."

A security source confirmed more than 100 had been abducted and said 35 people had been killed, including the district head.

Additional reporting by AP

Comments