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Nigerian towns caught in the crossfire of military, Boko Haram

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Maiduguri, located in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno has called for the military to withdraw from the town. Locals say they are being mistreated and abused, as the city is a stronghold for the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Maiduguri civilians have been paying a heavy price for the Islamists' guerrilla war. Government forces have accused them of non-cooperation and shielding the Islamists.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "We are terribly disturbed by the wave of incessant retaliatory attacks by security forces on us," one local resident says.

"Even if we were in a state of war with a rival country, civilians should not be killed and maimed in the way the military is doing," he said in a telephone interview.

Boko Haram, whose name means "western education is sin," has been attacking government institutions, including suicide bombings of the United Nations building in the capital, Abuja over the past three years. The worst attack was the January 20 assault at the ancient city of Kano that claimed over 180 lives.

Adopting a Taliban-style approach, Boko Haram is alleged to have links with al-Qaeda in North Africa. The terrorist group wants to impose Islamic law in a country sharply divided between a majority Muslim north and Christian south.

The irony is that government forces, intended to halt the bloodshed from the group has only contributed to an ongoing atmosphere of violence and repression. "We wish to be left with Boko Haram, we would have incurred less trouble than with the military," one resident has declared.

Maiduguri, the headquarters of Boko Haram activity in Nigeria and the staging point for the insurgents, appears to have become a battleground.

On Monday, October 15, sustained strikes on the city by government soldiers resulted in a number of bomb explosions and the lockdown of the city center. On Sunday, October 14 the city was rocked by a roadside blast and two separate gun attacks that killed at least four people including a local chief, residents and the military said.

Indiscriminate shooting allegedly committed by the members of the Joint Task Force in the days previously likewise resulted in further violence.

It is claimed that Nigerian troops in Maiduguri went berserk after their patrol vehicle was hit with an Improvised Explosive Device, killing two soldiers, which included a lieutenant. They were alleged to have started shooting indiscriminately in a densely populated area of Lagos Street.

Residents say over 30 people were killed in the assault, and houses, businesses and shops were burnt down and vandalized.

A version of this story was first published by Inter Press Service news agency.

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