Members of the Joint Task Force in Maiduguri have been implicated in a series of violent attacks on civilian targets as a means of avenging the death of troops assigned to fight the Boko Haram sect.
Investigations by SaharaReporters revealed that JTF members have killed more than 45 civilians and destroyed more than 100 houses. These wanton acts of mass murder and destruction were carried out by JTF operatives last Monday and Thursday after bomb explosions killed a JTF commander and two members of the outfit. “It is an unforgivable crime when armed officers take to killing innocent civilians in a fit of vengeful rage,” a Nigerian reporter for Human Rights Watch (HRW) told Saharareporters from Abuja. He called on the Nigerian government to identify, arrest and prosecute the rogue officers who carried out these illegal killings and widespread destruction in Maiduguri. “That’s how the government can demonstrate that it did not give approval for this grave violation of the rights of innocent, unarmed citizens who were mowed down by the JTF,” said the HRW official.
Another source blamed the new JTF commander in Maiduguri for instituting a change in the tactics of fighting Islamist insurgents. The source told SaharaReporters that the commander’s method of combating suspected Boko Haram militants led to the reckless endangerment and killing of civilians in the city.
On Monday, a Nigerian army lieutenant was killed by a bomb explosion set off by Boko Haram. The officer’s death infuriated JTF officers who went on a rampage, burning down numerous houses in the area. Up to 30 civilians were killed in reprisal attacks by JTF.
A security source also revealed that, on Thursday, members of the JTF went berserk and killed some 15 civilians after another attack on a JTF convoy that injured two soldiers.
Typically, the JTF would cordon off areas hit by bomb blasts and begin sporadic shootings to scare civilians. However, that tactic has changed to extra-judicial murder of civilians in areas affected by attacks carried out by Boko Haram.
SaharaReporters learnt that JTF officers today laid siege on a part of Maiduguri town after a bomb exploded on Bama Road. A resident disclosed that troops descended on the area and sealed off all travel points, but there were no civil deaths reported. Before evening fell in Maiduguri, two other bombs went off in the area, according to our correspondent.