Survivors Revealed What Really Happened In Baga

Survivors Revealed What Really Happened In Baga

A month past after the deadliest Boko Haram attack on Baga town, launched by militants on January 3, but the exact number of deaths is yet to be known. The BBC correspondent Thomas Fessy in West Africa tried to piece together a picture of what occurred that day.

It was reported that scores of men, women and children were killed in the Nigerian towns of Baga and Doron Baga in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, close to Lake Chad. According to the military officials only 150 people were killed in a fierce attack, most of them were terrorists. Other sources put the death toll up to 2,000.

The survivors at refugee camps in Chad have been narrating their ordeal.

The Boko Haram militants launched a fierce attack, when many residents had already gone to worship. They heard the shootings at 05:45 local time (04:45 GMT), just before dawn.


Harun Muhamad, the 31-year-old survivor from Baga said: “We went to the military barracks to ask the soldiers what was happening. They told us that Boko Haram may be attacking, so we took our machetes and knives to defend ourselves."

As insurgents advanced through the west side of Baga, a group of determined young men gathered their "cutlasses" - or machetes - and knives to protect their town. They achieved a rare success.

READ ALSO: Boko Haram Attacks Baga and Makes Locals Flee Into Chad

"We pushed them back, together with our soldiers," said the local man.

The militants were made to retreat into the bush.

Another Baga resident 20-year-old Dahiru Abdullahi added: "We all came out en masse to fight back," recalling that most terrorists were wearing military uniforms of different kinds, some of them also had black coats on and turbans.

After the fighters' retreat, there was a calm in the fighting and some relief, but it did not last long.


A few hours later Boko Haram returned. They attacked the town again. Their lines had inflamed to a frightening column of pick-up trucks and motorcycles.

When I was running and they were hunting us, shooting us, some people were falling and dying, others being run over with motorbikes and dying. Some reached the bank of the lake," Hadija Abakar, survivor from Baga said.

Another local, Dahiru Abdullahi, added, that “they came back out from the bush with around 20 vehicles."

No less than 10 armed terrorists jumped from each car. It remains unbearable to know how many insurgents took part in the attack; refugees spoke of "hundreds". The residents also out-armed.

According to Harun Muhamad the second wave of Boko Haram militants was "too many", making everyone to run for their lives.

The survivors narrated how the armed terrorists shouted at the young men who had earlier wielded locally made weapons.

"Be brave, men, why don't you fight us?" Boko Haram militants cried.

READ ALSO: Dead Bodies Litter Baga After Boko Haram Attack

The Nigerian soldiers, too, gave up fighting and fled faced with the advancing terrorists. Survivors say many threw or dropped their guns on the ground as they went, leaving them for others to retrieve.

Mother of a two-year-old boy Saratu Garba, 20, said: "Vigilantes picked up these weapons and fired back, but they found themselves overwhelmed by the force against them and [they] ran as well."

Survivors described pandemonium as the Boko Haram armed group progressed through the town. The local residents escaped in all directions; many thinking that they could seek refuge in the nearby fishing town of Doron Baga, on the shore of Lake Chad.

By midday, the attack had turned into a hunt-to-kill as Boko Haram fighters chased people down the road.

Dahiru Abdullahi, survivor of Baga attack, said:

There was also a woman whose baby fell into the water. We got him out, gave her the baby back and she was able to get into the boat.. We entered boats, but they kept firing at us."

"They shot people dead, but they also killed with their cars, running over those who were in their way," another woman, Saratu Garba, added.

"There were too many corpses to count them."

The woman and other refugees all narrated seeing women, children and men falling to the ground or lying dead. The streets of Doron Baga were soon littered with bodies. As people reached the shores of Lake Chad, Boko Haram insurgents closed in on them.

"They kept firing at us even when we jumped on boats," said Dahiru Abdullahi. "One man next to me was shot."

Families scattered in a desperate flight. Many were separated as they ran for their lives.

Some fled through the bush and, days later, reached sanctuary in other Nigerian towns or cities. According to Medecins Sans Frontieres about 5,000 escaped to the Maidiguri, Borno State capital - 162km (100 miles) from Baga. Others travelled north and crossed into neighbouring Niger.

Harun Muhamad, who was disjointed from his wife and baby, said: "I don't know whether they are alive or dead."

However, Dahiru Abdullahi, is waiting for news of his younger brother. "Him and nine other men who were with us, they have disappeared," he said.

The leader of Boko Haram militants Abubakar Shekau released a video after Baga attack. He took the responsibility for the Baga attack.

It remains impossible to know precisely how many Nigerians were killed during the attack. Human rights group Amnesty International has said that up to 2,000 lost their lives, but BBC has found no indication to back such a claim. Eyewitness accounts suggest several hundred are likely to have died, but the real figure will probably never be known.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Generals Arrested Over Failure In Baga 

The Federal Government of Nigeria looks unable to settle any death toll. The army rejected Amnesty's count, saying "the number of people who lost their lives during the attack has so far not exceeded about 150".

Satellite images of Baga and Doron Baga taken after the attacks show the extent of the damage - with an estimated 3,700 structures damaged or destroyed, according to Amnesty International.

In an online video, a man named Abi Mos'aab Albernawi - introduced as the "official spokesman" for Boko Haram - said they attacked Baga because it was "important in terms of commercial and military value to the Nigerian government".

Baga was most probable targeted because of the nearby military base, headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force that includes Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.



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