Nigerian army shoots up to 40 people in northeast


Female student stands in a burnt classroom at Maiduguri Experimental School, a private nursery, primary and secondary school burnt by the Islamist group Boko Haram to keep children away from school in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria on May 12, 2012.



The Nigerian army shot dead anywhere between 30 to 40 young men in raids in the northeast city of Maiduguri, a stronghold of the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram, on Thursday.

Reuters reported that the figure was "at least 30," while the Associated Press reported that "more than 40 people" had been killed.

Both the AP and the BBC suggested that the men were likely civilians.

An official at Maiduguri General Hospital told the AP that the dead did not appear to be armed combatants of Boko Haram. An imam told the BBC that around 11 youths from his street had been killed, including four of his own sons.

"Yesterday around the Gambaru area, soldiers raided places with an insider who pointed to suspected terrorists and they just killed some of them on the spot and others were taken away," a civil servant who saw the attacks told Reuters.

Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the Nigerian forces, declined to comment on the killings on Friday, the AP reported. In October, more than 20 civilians were shot dead by soldiers in Maiduguri following a bombing which killed a lieutenant.

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The BBC noted that news of the alleged extrajudicial executions came just as Amnesty International accused security forces of abuses in their crackdown on Islamist militants.

In its report on Thursday, Amnesty International said Nigeria's security forces were responsible for "enforced disappearance, torture, extrajudicial executions, the torching of homes and detention without trial."

Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala responded to Amnesty's accusations, saying that the government would never condone human rights abuses, but it should be remembered that the army was fighting "terrorist" acts.

"I think you need to look at the circumstances. When the UK was battling terrorism... the US, they had Guantanamo Bay.... All countries, when the security of their citizens is at stake, they try to use all the tools at their disposal," she told the BBC.

Boko Haram claims it wants to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, and its fighters have been responsible for hundreds of deaths in bombings and gun attacks since 2009.

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