Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said troops fighting Islamist insurgents with emergency powers in the northeast will protect civilians and respect internationally accepted rules of engagement.
Jonathan, who declared emergency rule in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa on May 14, said troops “will pay particular attention to the safety and well-being of the citizens of the affected states,” according to a statement e-mailed today by the Nigerian presidency.
The Nigerian president’s action followed violence in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, in which as many as 228 people were killed after security forces responded to an attack by militants on April 16, according to local officials. The army says 30 insurgents, six civilians and a soldier were killed, and 30 houses were burned down. New York-based Human Rights Watch said satellite images of Baga show at least 2,000 homes were destroyed.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language, has carried out gun and bomb attacks across Nigeria’s north and Abuja since the police killed its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, while in custody for his role in clashes with the security forces in Maiduguri in 2009. The group says it wants Islamic rule in Africa’s biggest oil producer, almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.
Troops mounted air and ground attacks on May 17 on camps used by the militants, destroying anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, according to the army. At least 24 Islamists have been killed and 85 others arrested since the military operation began on May 17, figures released by the army show.
A 24-hour curfew was imposed on May 18 on eight Maiduguri districts, including Gamboru, as the joint military task force operating in the area hunts for militants, Sagir Musa, a military spokesman in the city, said in an e-mailed statement.
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