The Amnesty International released evidence on January 14 of a large scale attack by the Boko Haram militants in Nigeria’s towns Baga and Doron Baga.
The satellite images show the before and after situation of the neighbouring towns after the horrific attack, which also resulted in the destruction of over 3,700 structures.
“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.
Baga, according to Amnesty International, is a densely populated town less than two square kilometres in size. The attack left the town with at least 620 structures damaged or completely destroyed by fire.
Doron Baga is a down that is just 2.5km away from Baga and is about four square km in size, in which more than 3,100 structures were damaged or destroyed by fire.
“Of all Boko Haram assaults analysed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet. It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins,” Eyre said.
The images, taken on January 2 and January 7, show a number of fishing boats lined up on the shoreline in the former. However, the latter image shows that those boats are no longer present, thereby “tallying with eye witnesses’ testimony that desperate residents fled by boat across Lake Chad.”
Thousands of people fled in the aftermath of the attacks to nearby parts of Nigeria or to Chad. These very people have added to the already high number of internally displaced persons and refugees. For this, “Amnesty International is calling on the governments of Nigeria and Chad to ensure these displaced people are protected and provided with adequate humanitarian assistance.”
Heart-wrenching tales of witnesses were given to the Amnesty International in interviews, which matched the destruction that was left behind because of the ruthless Boko Haram militants.
In fact, some interviews with “local government officials and local human rights activists suggest that Boko Haram militants shot hundreds of civilians.”
“They killed so many people. I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing,” a man in his fifties said about the attack on Baga.
The man had hidden in a bush, but was discovered by the militants later who then detained him for four days in Doron Baga.
According to one woman who was detained for four days “Boko Haram took around 300 women and kept us in a school in Baga. They released the older women, mothers and most of the children after four days but are still keeping the younger women.”
Another woman who was fleeing said, “I don’t know how many, but there were bodies everywhere we looked.”
Another witness spoke of the attack by the militants on a woman who was in labour, which made headlines worldwide.
“[H]alf of the baby boy is out and she died like this,” the witness said.
Further, witnesses said that after the attack on Baga, Boko Haram militants started rounding up the elderly, woman and children who had escaped the initial attack. They shot mercilessly at small children and women, killing them.
“Up until now, the isolation of Baga combined with the fact that Boko Haram remains in control of the area has meant that it has been very difficult to verify what happened there. Residents have not been able to return to bury the dead, let alone count their number. But through these satellite images combined with graphic testimonies a picture of what is likely to be Boko Haram’s deadliest attack ever is becoming clearer,” said Daniel Eyre.