Nigerian victory marred by deaths in custody

Monday, August 3, 2009

Since declaring victory over the self styled "Black Taliban" last week, new accusations of extra-judicial killings and summary executions have been leveled against the Nigerian authorities.

The allegations centre around the death of the charismatic leader Mohammed Yusuf of the Boko Haram sect and an unconfirmed number of his followers. Yusuf was captured after five days of violence which saw the shelling of the sect's compound in Maiduguri and an extensive manhunt.

New pictures have been revealed of Yusuf showing him shortly after his capture from a hole in the ground at a property owned by the family of one of his four wives. Shortly after the photograph was taken the bullet ridden body of Yusuf was shown to a television crew who had been expecting to interview him. The Nigerian authorities seemed initially intent on humiliating Yusuf and using his capture to cow his remaining followers, as other footage shows Yusuf pleading not to be harmed.

The death of Yusuf has been condemned by human rights activists and although extra-judicial killing has been denied, the official line being Yusuf died while trying to escape custody, his death has been described by Information Minister Dora Akunyili as being "good for Nigeria".

Despite the Nigerian military initially claiming that under 400 have been killed, with the majority being militants killed when the sect's compound was shelled, the Red Cross claim that at least 780 have been killed in Maiduguri alone.

The deaths come in the wake of attacks by the Boko Haram sect over the arrest of its leaders. Arrests that came after it was feared that the sect was planning an armed uprising in an attempt to impose Sharia law in a nation that is half Christian. The sect centered on its heartland Maiduguri, targeted police stations and security personnel with everything from machetes to poison arrows.

Boko Haram is a fundamentalist group opposed to the west and western education, it considers the majority of Muslims in Nigeria to have been contaminated by western education and that the only true Muslims in Nigeria as one who pray at Boko Haram mosques and who adhere to its teachings.