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Baga survivors still in hiding

26 April 2013, 14:07

Lagos - Many survivors of brutal clashes last week in Baga town are still in hiding and rescue workers are trying to convince them to return to a home ravaged by sweeping fires, an emergency official said on Friday.

Nearly half the town of Baga was razed during the violence between soldiers and suspected members of the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which killed 187 people.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has set up 10 camps for those displaced and is trying to distribute relief materials, but the work has been complicated in a community traumatised by the carnage, NEMA spokesman Manzo Ezekiel told AFP.

"The people were initially sceptical," he said.

"They weren't sceptical because of NEMA but at first they ran away because NEMA came with soldiers," Ezekiel added. "Many people are still in hiding."

Soldiers have been accused of firing indiscriminately on civilians while setting fires to scores of homes and a market after gun battles with Islamists broke out.

Thousands of people were reported to have fled to the bush outside of Baga while trying to escape the bloodshed.

Security forces

The military has fiercely denied any wrongdoing and has claimed that only 37 people died in the fighting last Friday.

"Part of our work there is to build confidence," the NEMA spokesperson said. "We need to show people that what we have now in Baga is assistance, not any more attacks."

The violence in the town near Lake Chad was likely the deadliest-ever episode in the Boko Haram insurgency, which has cost more than 3 000 lives since 2009, including killings by the security forces.

The regional Governor Kashim Shettima has called the events in Baga "barbaric".

Northeast Nigeria has been the epicentre of the insurgency, which Boka Haram says is aimed at creating an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, where most people are Muslim.

The southern half of the country, Africa's most populous and top oil producer, is mainly Christian.



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