On Monday, the news was rife that the Joint Task Force (JTF) in Maiduguri mostly comprised of soldiers, went beserk over the killing of a senior officer during a bokon haram attack and started shooting sporadically leading to the death of scores of civilians. There were also accusations of arson levelled against the JTF as over 50 houses were reportedly set ablaze by them in what was seen as reprisal attacks.
However, Nigeria’s Army, Tuesday, denied killing civilians and burning homes and shops after a bomb attack in the city of Maiduguri, despite residents’ claims of as many as 30 deaths during a rampage by soldiers.
“There was no incident involving the killing of 30 civilians,” Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, spokesman for a military joint task force in Borno state, where Maiduguri is the capital, said in a statement.
“Also, there was no arson and harassment by the JTF troops in Borno state.”
Nigerian soldiers have regularly faced accusations of killing civilians and burning homes or shops following bomb attacks targeting troops. Soldiers have in the past accused residents of cooperating with the attackers.
Troops were deployed following an explosion on Monday that hit a military patrol van and killed at least three soldiers and one civilian in Maiduguri in Nigeria’s volatile northeast.
According to residents, the soldiers used whips and the butts of their guns to beat people but the level of violence later escalated, including setting fire to homes and shops and shooting indiscriminately.
One resident put the number of dead at around 30. Another resident, who did not give an estimate of the death toll, said that “soldiers came into the neighbourhood and started attacking people, shooting everybody in sight.”
Maiduguri is considered the home base of Islamist group Boko Haram, blamed for killing more than 1,400 people in northern and central Nigeria since 2010.