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Amnesty International: over 8,000 have died in Nigerian military custody

A new report from rights group Amnesty International has charged the Nigerian military with being responsible for the deaths of over 8,000 people in its custody. The Nigerian army has denied the allegations.

More than 8,000 people have died while being detained by the Nigerian military during the campaign against militant group

Boko Haram,

rights group Amnestry International said Wednesday.

Many prisoners were executed, with others dying from starvation, torture, or denial of medical assistance. The 133-page

report

is based on interviews with nearly 400 sources, including eyewitnesses, victims and members of the military, in addition to photos and videos.

The group Boko Haram has led a six-year insurgency aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria that has left thousands dead and displaced 1.5 million people. Nigeria's new president

Muhammadu Buhari

held talks Wednesday with the leaders of Chad and Niger on the best strategy to fight the insurgent group.

A combined military effort by Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon has reclaimed much of the territory initially conquered by Boko Haram. But Amnesty suspects the Nigerian military of committing war crimes during its campaign against the Islamist group.

The rights group said the Nigerian military rounded up thousands of men and boys during raids on Boko Haram strongholds. More than 1,200 people are thought to have been extrajudicially executed during the raids, with others dying in custody after relatives were unable to pay bribes to the Nigerian military.

At least 7,000 more died of disease or starvation in overcrowded cells.

'Evidence of mass graves'

"The hundreds of unidentified bodies, the evidence of mass graves and the harrowing stories of starvation and abuse coming out of the country's military barracks demand nothing less than an urgent investigation and for those responsible to be brought to justice," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

The Nigerian military denied Amnesty's allegations and accused the group of trying to blackmail the country's armed forces.

"The Nigerian military...rejects the biased and concocted report provided by Amnesty International," Nigerian Major General Chris Olukolade said in a statement. "The Nigerian military does not encourage or condone abuse of human rights, neither will any proven case be left unpunished."

A spokesman for the Buhari government said the administration will study the report and take appropriate action if necessary.

"The administration will leave no stone unturned to promote the rule of law…Respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law are the life and soul of the democratic system," presidency spokesman Garba Shehu quoted Buhari as saying in a statement.

bw/bk (AFP, Reuters)

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