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"It is corpses everywhere": Survivors of Boko Haram attacks describe the horror they've seen

The militant group is responsible for the deaths of around 2,000 people.

Nigeria Violence People stand outside burnt houses following an attack by Islamic militants in Gambaru, Nigeria. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

MILITANT GROUP BOKO Haram has killed over 2,000 people, while razing 16 towns to the ground.

This weekend saw yet more bloodshed, as the group used a 10-year-old girl as a bomb, strapping explosives to her before sending her out to a market in the city of Potiskum.

Survivors have been speaking with reporters about what they have experienced as Boko Haram has waged its deadly violence.

“It is corpses everywhere”

Nigeria Violence AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

When Borye Kime (40) crept back into the fishing town of Baga in northeast Nigeria in the early hours of today, a weak moon shone on a grisly sight. “It is corpses everywhere,” he told AFP.

The whole town smells of decomposing bodies.

Kime was one of thousands who fled across the border to Chad when Boko Haram fighters stormed his hometown of Baga in Nigeria’s far northeast on January 3.

In the days that followed, the town and at least 16 settlements nearby were burnt to the ground.

On Saturday, another man, Yanaye Grema, said he was forced to hide for three days while the militants ransacked Baga. He eventually fled into the bush under the cover of darkness on Tuesday.

For five kilometres (three miles), I kept stepping on dead bodies

Amnesty International said numerous eye-witnesses had described how the Boko Haram militants went from door to door, pulling out young men of fighting age and shooting them dead in the street.

Piles of bodies

Kime knew he was taking a risk by returning to Baga but he said he had to go to retrieve life-savings and money given to him for safe-keeping.

At first I tried to get in from the northern outskirts but I saw flashlights and heard people talking. From the silhouettes, I could tell it was a Boko Haram barricade.
I withdrew and tried to approach it from the east and again I saw flashlights close to the primary school. It was another security post.
I moved away and went in by the livestock market, where I saw piles of bodies scattered all over. It was obviously a scene of a massacre.
I didn’t stay for more than 10 minutes. By 3am I was in the canoe paddling back to Dubuwa (village, in Chad).
It was only when I was heading back that fear gripped me. I realised what grave danger I got myself in.

Nigeria’s government has claimed that troops were “actively pursuing” the militants as part of an operation to take back control of Baga. But Kime said there was “not a single soldier in Baga”.


Nigeria Violence AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Others reported seeing troops abandon their posts when Boko Haram attacked, leaving the fighting to civilian vigilantes.

“The vigilantes fought for some time but withdrew because they could not match Boko Haram’s heavy weapons,” said Mala Kyari Shuwaram, a local chief from Baga who also made it to Dubuwa.

It was good the vigilantes put up resistance because that gave many of us time to flee Baga and take canoes into Lake Chad, otherwise we would all have been dead.
I personally aided four fleeing soldiers to get to a boat. They practically swam on my back to the boat several metres off the shore. The soldiers threw away their guns and fled with us.

“I don’t know whether they’re alive or dead”

Many of those who escaped made it to islands on Lake Chad.

The panicked mass evacuation split families and has increased pressure on already over-stretched local authorities in the border areas of neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

“I don’t know where my six-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter are. We lost them in the confusion as we tried to flee Baga,” said Shuwaram.

They were separated from the family and we don’t know if they’re alive or dead.


Nigeria Violence AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

With Boko Haram still holding Baga, hundreds of people are still stranded on the islands.

There are now 15,500 people from Baga sheltering in five villages here in Chad. They are here in Dubuwa, Kangallam, Kaywa, Tetewa and Kilbuwa. We are being taken care of by Chadian authorities but our number is huge. The food we get is inadequate.

One survivor of the Baga violence, Ibrahim Gambo, told Associated Press he estimated that more than 500 people may have died and said he did not know what happened to his wife and daughter.

The 25-year-old truck driver said he was part of a civilian militia that, bolstered by a belief that its fighters were protected from bullets by a magical charm, initially had success in resisting Boko Haram insurgents.

But the army told his militia group to pull back so that a military plane could attack Boko Haram forces, which then surrounded Baga when the plane didn’t arrive, Gambo said in an interview with The Associated Press.

It is sad that our fortification charm became ineffective once we showed fear.
As we were running for our lives, we came across many corpses; both men and women, and even children.

He said that some had gunshot wounds in the head and some had their legs bound and hands tied behind their backs.

Nigeria-Violence In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, a Nigerian woman, Halima Ibrahim and her children sit at a camp for displaced people in Gagamiri, Niger, after her husband was killed by an Islamic extremist in Damassak AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

With additional reporting: AFP and AP

Explainer: What is Boko Haram and why can’t Nigeria stop them?>

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