Boko Haram takes control of Baga

Attack comes as difficulties increase for Nigerian army

The Islamist militant group Boko Haram has attacked the fishing town of Baga in northern Nigeria, leaving hundreds of people unaccounted for according to local government officials.

The attack took place in the troubled Borno state, a stronghold of the Islamist rebels who captured Baga on 7 January after over-running a key military base. The army camp was the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which comprises troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad tackling the growing Boko Haram insurgency in the region.

The latest massacres by the rebels in the north come as the Nigerian army steps up its courts martial as part of its efforts to deal with alleged Boko Haram sympathisers within its ranks. Since December over 70 soldiers have been sentenced to death for mutiny while in early January the army dismissed some 200 soldiers for allegedly disobeying direct orders from their commanding officer to confront Boko Haram.

The army says its purge has resulted in greater discipline in the force however the Nigerian non-governmental organisation Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has appealed to the United Nations to help avert the executions.

Chad has requested international aid to deal with the growing number of Nigerian refugees crossing the Chadian border to escape Boko Haram attacks in the Chad Lake area in neighbouring north-eastern Nigeria.

Boko Haram has been blamed for multiple gun and bomb attacks in villages, schools and churches, killing thousands since 2009 when the insurgents began their armed campaign to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria. The worst-affected state is Borno, 70 per cent of which is now believed to be under the control of Boko Haram.

The conflict has displaced at least 1.5 million people, and resulted in more than 2,000 deaths in 2014. See related news.