US-supported Nigerian soldiers killed up to 30 civilians on Monday “using assault rifles and heavy machine guns mounted on armored personnel carriers” and set fire to about 50 homes and businesses in the area, according to the Associated Press.
But an AP reporter who “counted the dead while on a tour of the still-smoldering neighborhood” reports that he “saw no weapons or evidence that the dead belonged to the sect.”
“The killings likely will further antagonize a population already alienated by checkpoints, security force harassment and the threat of being killed by soldiers who are targets for the sect’s increasingly bloody guerrilla attacks,” the AP reports.
Nigerian officials declined to comment about the apparent massacre, and urged journalists not to take pictures of the scene “out of fear of further alienating those living in the region.”
Some reports that did not have journalists on the ground, have said those killed were members of Boko Haram and that they fought back with weapons, but this is merely the Nigerian government’s line and “cannot be independently verified,” the AP said.
The Nigerian government has long been prone to corruption and extra-judicial killings, and an assault on civil liberties has intensified ever since the US began supporting Nigeria in a bid to undercut Boko Haram, which has launched attacks in recent months.
US pressured helped push through sweeping legislation in Nigeria last year, which gave the president the power to declare any group a terrorist organization, imprison convicted members for as long as 20 years, and search without a warrant.
Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Nigerian Foreign Minister Olugbenga Ashiru, and pledged an assorted variety of newfangled interventions from economic stimulus to fighting terrorism. Then reports came out in subsequent months that US troops had been sent on the ground in Nigeria to help fight Boko Haram.
In the last five years, Washington has sent almost $3 billion to Nigeria, much of it explicitly for “counter-terrorism,” but the trends suggest that the increased support has merely propped up the regime, worsened protections civil liberties, added to corruption, and promoted security forces that routinely abuse the Nigerian people.