BAUCHI, Nigeria (AP) — Residents of a Nigerian town attacked by Boko Haram criticized security forces for failing to intervene even though they had been warned that the militants were nearby. At least 50 bodies have been recovered, many horribly burned, in the town.
The attack on Gamboru, in remote northeastern Nigeria near the border with Cameroon, was part of the Islamic militants’ relentless campaign of terror that also snared more than 300 teenage girls who were abducted last month from a boarding school. Most of those girls remain captives, likely in the vast Sambisa forest in northeast Nigeria.
The death toll from the Monday afternoon attack in Gamboru was initially reported by a senator to be as many as 300, but a security official said it is more likely to be around 100. Some Gamboru residents said bodies were recovered from the debris of burned shops around the town’s main market, which was the focus of the attack.
Gamboru resident Abuwar Masta said the bodies were found after the market reopened on Wednesday as health workers, volunteers and traders searched for missing people. He said most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Some of the victims were traders from Chad and Cameroon, he said.
“It seems they hid in the shops in order not (to) be killed while fleeing,” Masta said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, several explosives were thrown into the market.”
Masta and other traders said that some villagers had warned the security forces of an impending attack after insurgents were seen camping in the bush near Gamboru.
The kidnapping of the schoolgirls on April 15 in the town of Chibok have sparked accusations that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to stop the militants. Boko Haram, which wants to impose Islamic law on Africa’s most populous nation, has killed more than 1,500 people this year.
Outrage over the missing girls and the government’s failure to rescue them brought angry Nigerian protesters into the streets this week, an embarrassment for the government of President Goodluck Jonathan which had hoped to showcase the country’s emergence as Africa’s largest economy as it hosted the Africa meeting of the World Economic Forum, the continent’s version of Davos. That meeting is ongoing in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, which also has been the scene recently of two bomb blasts blamed on Boko Haram.
The homegrown terror group was largely contained to the northern part of Nigeria before expanding its reach with the help of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the terrorist network’s affiliate in West Africa, which took in Boko Haram fighters for training in its camps in southern Somalia, beginning in 2010.
Although Boko Haram has killed thousands of people – Christians as well as Muslims – over the years in a campaign of bombing and massacres, the group’s mass abduction of schoolgirls appears to have galvanized global attention and offers of security assistance from foreign countries to help rescue the girls.
The U.S. announced on Tuesday it was sending personnel and equipment to help Nigerian security forces.
Jonathan confirmed that he has accepted the American assistance, which the Pentagon said Wednesday will include communications, logistics and intelligence planning, but will not include any military operations. Britain and China said Nigeria had accepted their offers of help, and France said it was sending in a “specialized team” to help with search and rescue of the girls.