Witnesses: Hundreds of bodies in town held by Boko Haram


MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) - Hundreds of skeletons of children, women and men believed killed by Boko Haram have been found in a recaptured Nigerian border town, indicating another atrocity by the Islamic extremists, witnesses say.

A local government committee that entered northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak through neighboring Niger said it also found decomposing bodies of men presumed to be Boko Haram fighters killed when troops from Chad and Niger recaptured the town in March.

"I know that there was a large-scale atrocity, but I cannot tell you the precise number of dead bodies," Senator-elect Abubakar Kyari on Monday told reporters in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital 180 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of Damasak, which borders Niger.

The officials visited Damasak on Saturday and found the town littered with bodies, said Babagana Mustapha, spokesman for the Mobbar local government.

Hundreds more bodies of insurgents are rotting in the surrounding bush, according to Chadian troops who escorted the officials through the town.

The officials were to assess if it would be safe for refugees to return to Damasak, but committee member Mohammed Aji said they found the town "in shambles. Houses, especially the market areas, were destroyed. Some buildings like government offices burned completely by the Boko Haram terrorists before they finally left."

There have been reports of Boko Haram killing hundreds of civilians as they fled other Nigerian towns, driven out by a Chadian-led multinational offensive that began at the end of January.

The multinational force has pushed Boko Haram out of all areas of northeastern Nigeria, except for the Sambisa Forest, said military spokesman Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade.

The forest is where Boko Haram took more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls a year ago. The forest has been pounded by air raids for weeks and ground troops reportedly entered it last week. Olukolade denied reports that the troops retreated from Sambisa because of land mines.

Boko Haram's Islamic uprising is blamed for the deaths of as many as 10,000 people last year and some 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes.


Faul reported from Lagos, Nigeria.

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