By Kevin Belanger,
International News Writer
In a video released on Tuesday, January 20, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for a brutal attack on the city of Baga, Nigeria and the surrounding countryside on January 3.
This attack is the worst act of terrorism yet committed by the terrorist organization. The main target for the insurgents was a military base for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a military force composed of troops from Nigeria, Niger, and Chad which was intended to provide extra border security for the three countries.
Based on its use of satellite technology, Human Rights Watch concludes that insurgents used arson on mostly civilian targets.
It also estimates that thousands of buildings were destroyed during the attack.
The Nigerian government estimates the death toll of the attack to be 150 people but some estimates are as high as 2000, as reported the Huffington Post.
However, as the town is still controlled by Boko Haram, the government has been unable to provide a certain death toll. In a video posted by Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, one of the organization’s leaders, warned that the violence was only the beginning of Boko Haram’s plan to attack towns and villages in the surrounding area.
In addition, he warned that Boko Haram had seized a large quantity of weapons from the nearby military base, which insurgents had targeted during the attack.
Shekau also threatened Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, saying he was “in trouble,” while also criticizing Jonathan’s opponent in the upcoming presidential election, calling him an “infidel,” as quoted by ABC News.
International observers have warned that the taking of Baga, which is near the borders of both Niger and Chad, would provide Boko Haram with a base for launching attacks across international borders.
In the wake of the attack, residents of nearby cities and towns have been forced to flee in fear of a similar attack on their homes.
In response to the attack, both Chad and Niger removed their troops from the MNJTF base in Nigeria due to danger in the region posed by Boko Haram.
The nations later reached an agreement to move the base to the capital of Chad, N’Djamena. Representatives of all three nations met in Niger on Tuesday, January 20 to discuss possible plans for fighting Boko Haram.
Despite continuing violence and coordination issues, Nigeria has refused help from either the United Nations or the African Union in fighting Boko Haram.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 27th print edition.
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