Nigeria: Scores dead after weekend violence

2013-04-22 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Fighting between Nigeria's military and the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram this past weekend has killed at least 185 people.

The fighting in the fishing community of Baga in Nigeria’s northeast began Friday and lasted for hours. The locals who managed to escape hid in the arid scrublands surrounding the village. They returned Sunday afternoon, when government officials deemed it safe.

Officials immediately began to bury the dead. Homes, businesses and vehicles were burned and destroyed.

Fr. Evaristus Bassey, national director of Caritas Nigeria, told Vatican Radio how this assault marks a significant and unexpected escalation in the long-running insurgency in northern Nigeria.

“It’s actually disappointing because there has been talk of amnesty and one of the leaders of Boko Haram came out to say that they were going to go on a ceasefire,” he said. “So, we have been expecting a decrease in violence. So, it was surprising that that kind of violence escalated. And now we even have a higher level of weaponry, much more than what they were using before.”

Fr. Bassey also underlined the lack of accurate information about what is happening in these areas, which keeps people in dangerous situations and delays sufficient aid from getting to people in need.

“Although what happens is that at a local level, the news media there is censored so the local people there don’t get to really know what is happening,” he said. “What they are trying to do is to not escalate the news, so that people have the sense that they are not living in insecurity but then it is a false security.”

In the aftermath of such violence, Fr. Bassey said Caritas Nigeria usually helps with healthcare and food assistance. But the organization is still assessing how it can best help after this weekend’s massacre.

Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci: