Initial reports say there were about 185 casualties.
More people were killed than earlier reported in the small village of Baga, which sits along the shores of Lake Chad in Borno State, in a deadly fighting between suspected members of the Boko Haram sect and a military task force, the Red Cross has said.
Initial reports said 185 people were killed either in the crossfire, or were burnt to death after the Joint Task Force razed the entire community down. Military authorities have denied the figures, claiming they were exaggerated.
”On my honour as a soldier, nothing like that happened,” commander of the Joint Task Force, Brigadier General Austin Edokpaye, was quoted as saying.
But the Red Cross said Monday at least 187 people died, while another 77 were receiving medical treatment, the Associated Press reported.
Spokesperson for the aid agency, Nwakpa O. Nwakpa, was quoted as saying that the military blocked access for relief officials to enter the town.
“Our volunteers are on standby,” Mr. Nwakpa said. “We are yet to be provided clearance.”
The Nigerian government has yet to comment on the violence more than two days after. President Goodluck Jonathan instead presided over the transfer of electricity asset to private firms on Monday at the president villa.
A coterie of presidential spokespersons also made no mention of the incident by Monday evening either in a statement or online. A tweet by a presidential aide to the president, Reno Omokri, late Monday, challenged opposition Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, to substantiate an allegation against the president.
“The claim by the CPC that the Presidency bought Pastor Ayo’s jet is false. The CPC should tender its evidence or apologize to the President,” Mr. Omokri wrote.
The Commander of the JTF, Mr. Edokpaye, said the fire that consumed the town and resultant deaths should be blamed on the Boko Haram terrorists who opened fire on soldiers while hiding in the mix of civilians.
But resident blame the military for their losses.
The attack was only reported after Borno Governor, Kashim Shettima, visited the community on Sunday.
A local trader in Baga told PREMIUM TIMES that the attack started at about 8 p.m. on Friday and was continued the next day.
“Only God can understand what we have done to deserve this. But the soldiers were mindless that night in their approach; they killed and burnt our houses, chased everyone into the bush including women and children. So far we have buried 185 corpses. – some were burnt beyond recognition; others are hospitalized with various degrees of burnt,” said the resident who begged to remain anonymous.
Governor Shettima who drove through the burnt town amidst heavy motorcade of security personnel condemned the incident which he said was a ‘nasty occurrence’.
At the town’s hospital, the governor commiserated with women, children and aged men receiving treatment for various degrees of burnt caused by the fire.
Bashir Isa, a grocery merchant, told PREMIUM TIMES that “everyone has been in the bush since Friday night; we started returning back to town because the governor came to town today.
“To get food to eat in the town now is a problem because even the markets are burnt. We are still picking corpses of women and children in the bush and creeks.”