Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Measuring violence

I've been reading sensationalized accounts in the Nigerian press about terrorism in northern Nigeria and about allegations of reactive terrorism by the Nigerian army. They seem to be third-hand accounts written in the newsrooms of Abuja and Lagos. This report by Adam Nossiter in The New York Times, seems to be based on reporting in Maiduguri, the center of Boko Haram activity.

Bodies Pour In as Nigeria Hunts for Islamists
Large numbers of bodies, sometimes more than 60 in a day, are being brought by the Nigerian military to the state hospital, according to government, health and security officials, hospital workers and human rights groups — the product of the military’s brutal war against radical Islamists rooted in this northern city.

The corpses were those of young men arrested in neighborhood sweeps by the military and taken to a barracks nearby. Accused, often on flimsy or no evidence, of being members or supporters of Boko Haram — the Islamist militant group waging a bloody insurgency against the Nigerian state — the detainees are beaten, starved, shot and even suffocated to death, say the officials, employees and witnesses…

From the outset of the battle between Boko Haram and the military, a dirty war on both sides that has cost nearly 4,000 lives since erupting in this city in 2009, security forces have been accused of extrajudicial killings and broad, often indiscriminate roundups of suspects and sympathizers in residential areas.

The military’s harsh tactics, which it flatly denies, have reduced militant attacks in this insurgent stronghold, but at huge cost and with likely repercussions, officials and rights advocates contend…

“Mostly they bring the corpses from Giwa Barracks, the J.T.F.,” said one hospital worker. Most of the young men died “from beating, bullets, maltreatment,” he added. “You can hardly see a corpse here from sickness. Sometimes it is up to 120 corpses they bring.”

His colleague at the hospital, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said: “Every day. An average of 14 to 15 bodies a day. They accumulate. Some are swollen. Almost all are emaciated. Some they bring in with their handcuffs still on.”…

Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the military’s joint task force, acknowledged detentions at the barracks, saying that “many confirmed commanders of Boko Haram have been arrested, and many of their camps have been destroyed,” actions that he said aided the “restoration of law and order.”

But he rejected accusations of widespread killing or torture…

Boko Haram has shown few signs of giving up — militants suspected of belonging to the group attacked a northern town on Tuesday, killing scores, Reuters reported. The military has not shown signs of relenting either, officials said. There has been “a very high increase in the number of corpses,” said one of the state’s top health officials. “It was not this bad” several years ago, the official said. “In the last year, it has become so bad. It has escalated.”…

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