On Friday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told BBC reporters that terrorist group Boko Haram was "getting weaker and weaker by the day" — but the group's latest set of casualties paints a much starker picture. The same day that Goodluck insisted the cell, which recently pledged its allegiance to jihadist group ISIS, had begun to falter, a Chadian army spokesman in the region told the Associated Foreign Press that local military members had dug up a mass grave left by Boko Haram militants containing at least 100 bodies. The soldiers from Chad and Niger first uncovered the grave on Friday in Damasak, a northeast Nigerian town, under a bridge just outside the city. Several bodies, said the spokesman, had been decapitated.
Said Colonel Azem Bermandoa Agouna in a statement, "There are about 100 bodies spread around under the bridge just outside the town ... the mass grave has become like a termite mound." When prompted about the massacre, he added assuredly, "This is the work of Boko Haram."
According to a Reuters witness, the massacre most likely occurred months earlier, when Boko Haram had first overtaken the city, as the bodies had mostly been mummified by the desert air. ABC News Australia reported that one of the bodies belonged to the city's imam. Many believe that there are still bodies buried throughout the town.
One Damasak resident recalled the horrific events that took place when the terrorist group first overtook the city. "People were in town when [Boko Haram] attacked," said Mbodou Moussa in an interview with Reuters reporters. "They fired at us, we ran away to the bushes, but they continued to fire and chased some people to kill them."
The AFP reported that when the Army was finally able to retake the town last weekend, only 50 residents remained, many of whom were elderly or sick.
With the Boko Haram body count stacking up, it's unclear whether Goodluck, who has come under fire for his perceived shortcomings on the issue, will be reelected at the end of this month. In an interview with the BBC, Goodluck defended himself and his administration, explaining that the rise of the terror cell had been completely unforseen.
We never expected that [Boko Haram] will build up that kind of capacity. We under-rated their external influence. Since after the civil war we've not fought any war, we don't manufacture weapons, so we had to look for help to re-equip our army and the air force.
Goodluck's main opponent, Muhammadu Buhari, told the news outlet that the president's entire tenure had been "a disaster for the country and its citizens", pointing to the numerous incidents in recent days as proof of his failure.
The explosive situation in Nigeria has taken the lives of nearly 16,000 citizens in the past three years alone, reports suggest. This latest discovery has only weakened the resolve of some frightened residents to make the trek to the presidential polling stations next week, reported the Wall Street Journal on Friday. Said a spokesman for the Transition Monitoring Group in a statement, "We have not seen the necessary security — no doubt there’s going to be challenges."
Should the current push by the country's military succeed as planned, the threat of Boko Haram will simply be a tragic footnote in the annals of history — but if Goodluck's critics are correct, there may still be a long, bloody road ahead before the region finally sees its long-awaited peace.
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