Details Emerge on Shooting Spree in Nigeria

5/7/14
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
5/7/14:

Attack on Civilians in Northeast Suspected to Have Been Carried Out by Boko Haram.

More details emerged on Wednesday about an attack by gunmen in Nigeria’s northeast that left more than 100 people dead in a trading town, witnesses and local officials said, the latest attack on civilians suspected to have been carried out by Islamic insurgents.

The shooting spree happened Monday in Gamboru Ngala, a remote town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Fighters burned shopkeepers alive, tossed homemade bombs into houses and gunned down Muslims praying inside a mosque, said Bukar Mustapha, the town’s local government chairman.

Area residents blamed the violence on Boko Haram, an insurgency trying to impose Islamic law across the country’s north. The militant group rarely claims responsibility for attacks.

Mr. Mustapha on Wednesday afternoon estimated the fatalities at “far, far above 100,” adding, “As we speak, we are still burying the dead among us.”

Nigeria’s military spokesperson confirmed the attack, but declined to discuss it or the broader Boko Haram insurgency.

Boko Haram has been conducting a violent campaign in northern Nigeria that appears aimed at exposing the weakness of a government that has been unable to stop the attacks. Nigeria recently became the continent’s top economy, but much of the country’s impoverished north remains controlled, or terrorized, by Islamic militants.

In the past week, the group has been blamed for a barrage of gunbattles, car bombs and kidnappings as far south as the capital of Abuja and as far north as Lake Chad, at the very desert fringe of the country.

One particular incident has attracted global attention: On April 14, more than 200 teenage girls were abducted from a rural high school, for which the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, subsequently claimed responsibility in a video released Monday. In it, he said he is keeping those girls as slaves and would sell some of them.

That abduction has provoked condemnations from world leaders, and offers of assistance from Western powers.

The U.S. is dispatching a small team of military personnel to Nigeria to help find the kidnapped girls. The French government on Wednesday offered the Nigerian authorities the services of a “special team” to help find the girls. The U.K. is also offering a team of experts, while China has pledged to send satellite intelligence to help Nigeria’s army find the schoolgirls.

Separately, Nigerian police announced a $300,000 reward for any information leading to the girls’ rescue.

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