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Forces fighting against Boko Haram in Nigeria terrorizing people they're trying to protect

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When doing battle against monsters, it is important not to become a monster, as the old saying goes. This appears to be the case in Nigeria, where security forces battling against the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram have themselves started to terrorize and kill the people they're supposed to be protecting.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Amnesty International says that abuses from these so-called security forces include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.

A Nigerian army spokesman has rejected these accusations, saying soldiers always operate within the law.

Boko Haram has been blamed in the deaths of hundreds of Nigerians this year alone, carrying out attacks in northern and central Nigeria since 2009. However, people now say they both face danger from the fighters of Boko Haram -- and from their own military.

While Amnesty International blamed Boko Haram for widespread atrocities, including murder, burning down churches and schools and attacks against the media, a heavy-handed response by security forces has only spurred on further violence.

"The cycle of attack and counter-attack has been marked by unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle," the group's Secretary General Salil Shetty says.

"People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them."

Amnesty says that reports of people being shot dead by the army or beaten to death in detention are particularly common in northeastern Nigeria.

Nigerian army spokesman Colonel S. K. Usman told TV reporters that soldiers were professional and properly trained.

"There is no Nigerian soldier that goes out on the streets to just kill innocent Nigerians," he said.

"So whatever we do we always make sure it is done within the ambit of the law."

Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the BBC's Focus on Africa program that the government would never condone human rights abuses, but it should be remembered that the army was trying to curb "terrorist" acts.

"I think you need to look at the circumstances. When the U.K. was battling terrorism . the U.S., they had Guantanamo Bay . all countries, when the security of their citizens is at stake, they try to use all the tools at their disposal," she said.

Okonjo-Iweala added that she objected to suggestions that the security forces acted in a "heavy-handed" way.

"Everyday our security forces are putting their lives on the line to fight this issue [of violence by Boko Haram]."

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