The Nigerian Army on Saturday denied reports by Amnesty International, alleging that 60 displaced persons were killed by the Boko Haram insurgents at Rann community in Borno State, describing it as misleading.
Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole, made the clarification in a statement in Maiduguri.
Amnesty International in a report alleged that Boko Haram insurgents attacked the community sequel to the withdrawal of troops from the area.
According to Nwachukwu, there was no evidence of such attack as well as the murder of 60 persons by the insurgents on January 28; as claimed by the organization.
He said, “The attention of the Theatre Command, Operation LAFIYA DOLE has been drawn to recent claims by Amnesty International (AI) that troops’ abandonment of their deployment led to the killing of 60 civilians in Rann on Jan. 28, 2018.
“Undoubtedly, it is disheartening that the situation of Internally Displaced Persons ( IDPs) who are already traumatized, having been displaced from their ancestral homes by insurgency, is being further aggravated by recent callous Boko Haram attack on the IDP community.
“However; it is most unacceptable and unfair for AI to make such outlandish and unverified claims that troops abandoned their deployment a day before Boko Haram attack on the location, thereby exposing the IDPs to a deadly attack.
“This claim is not only bereft of truth, but in its usual mannerism, another futile effort by AI to portray the Nigerian military as incapable and project the Nigerian government as not protective of her people in the eyes of the global community.
“It is, therefore, inevitable to address this misinformation being peddled and fed the public from AI’s obviously uninformed report’’.
Nwachukwu noted that the insurgents attacked the community on Jan. 14, as against Jan. 28, as claimed by the Amnesty International.
He added that during the encounter with the insurgents on Jan. 14, the troops proved their gallantry, neutralized two suicide bombers and three Boko Haram fighters, while several others fled with gunshot wounds.
The army spokesperson revealed that the Theatre Commander, Maj. Gen. Benson Akinroluyo, accompanied by the Commander Sector 1, Operation LAFIYA DOLE, Brig. Gen. Bulama Biu, conducted a long-range patrol and battle damage assessment exercise at Rann and other adjoining communities in the area.
He observed that the report of the assessment exercise indicated that there were no records of 60 persons killed in the insurgents’ attack as claimed by the AI.
“Contrary to AI’s claims, at no point of the assessment indicated the killing of 60 persons made either by members of the community, whom the Sector Commander interacted with or by the members of the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), who were at hand during the assessment.
“Again, the alleged 60 dead bodies were not recovered during search and rescue operation conducted after the attack, as AI would want members of the public to believe.
“The troops commenced a clearance operation in villages surrounding Rann and destroyed Boko Haram terrorists’ camps that were uncovered during the operation.
“In one of such clearance operations on Jan. 30, the troops encountered an ambush staged by the terrorists along Gamboru – Mafa Road and gallantly fought through it, overpowering the insurgents,” he said.
According to Nwachukwu, another issue in the controversial AI report is the alleged attack on Rann on Jan. 28.
He said, whereas there was no such attack, rather, an alarm was raised by IDPs in Rann over the sudden withdrawal of troops under the MNJTF from the location, to which the authorities of Operation LAFIYA quickly responded.
“The Commander Sector, Operation LAFIYA DOLE returned to Rann on Jan. 29, with reinforcement troops to beef-up and support the troops there.
“The astronomical statistics of human casualty touted by AI and the alleged abdication of duty by our selfless and resilient troops cannot hold water in the face of facts.
“Facts of the several exemplary physical involvements of the Theatre Commander and the Commander Sector 1 as well as Commanders of 22 Brigade and 3 Battalion in ensuring normalcy returns to Rann and the reinforcement and replenishment of the troops,” Nwachukwu said.
He also blamed the organisation for inability to verify facts in the compilation of its report, adding that the organisation wrongly accused the military of wrongdoing.
Nwachukwu noted that the troops deployed to the frontlines become victims of the insurgents’ attacks and sacrificed their lives in defense of the people and the country.
He said the military authorities were deeply touched by the demise of those who fell during the insurgents’ attack in Rann and sympathised with humanitarian organisations and aid workers affected by the attack.
The army spokesman stressed that the atrocities perpetrated by the insurgents was a clarion call to international and local communities to support the Nigerian military to enable it end insurgency and restore peace to the troubled region.
Nwachukwu, who reiterated the commitments of the Army to defend the nation’s territorial integrity, protect life and property, said that the military would not be distracted from its duties by smear campaigns.