Disguised As Soldiers, Boko Haram Militants Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Nigeria

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 5 2014 3:02 PM

Disguised As Soldiers, Boko Haram Militants Kill Hundreds of Civilians in Nigeria

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Imam Abubakar Shekau, leader of the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, has been declared wanted by the Nigerian military.

Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

While dressed as members of the Nigerian army, Boko Haram militants rounded up and killed more than 200 civilians in at least three villages in northeastern Nigeria earlier this week. Community leaders who escaped the massacre said that the militants lied to the villagers telling them that they were there to protect them.

The leaders claim they alerted the Nigerian military that the attack was imminent, but help never came. This news comes on the heels of a recent report that senior military officers were arming the Islamist group

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"We all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported to that the insurgents might attack us," one community leader told the Associated Press on Thursday. Peter Biye, a lawmaker from the region, said that officials were still counting the number of casualties.

The attacks happened in the villages of Danjara, Agapalwa, and Antagara in Borno state—one of the Boko Haram’s strongest bases in Nigeria. According to the BBC, the militants were claiming to take revenge on the villages after an earlier Boko Haram attack on Sunday caused a confrontation between villagers and the insurgents. Some Boko Haram members were killed in the clash.

Following April's kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, also in Borno state, the international pressure on the Nigerian government to address the insurgency has risen. President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three states in northeastern Nigeria, but the terrorists have responded by stepping up their assaults.

Irene Chidinma Nwoye is a writer and Slate intern in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.