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Amnesty shows satellite images of Boko Haram attacks

Richard ConnorJanuary 15, 2015

Amnesty International has released satellite images showing the "devastation" in areas attacked by Islamist group Boko Haram. The human cost has so far proved far more difficult to document, with hundreds believed dead.

EINSCHRÄNKUNG Amnesty Meldung Nigeria Zerstörung durch Boko Haram
Image: Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe

The satellite images released by human rights group Amnesty Internationalon Thursday showed more than 3,700 damaged or destroyed buildings in the towns of Baga and Doron Baga.

"These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days," said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty. The group says the images would appear to corroborate accounts suggesting hundreds of people were shot by the militants.

The UN says over 11,000 people have fled Nigeria's border near Chad and Cameroon following the attacks in Nigeria's Borno state, which started on January 3 and lasted for four days.

The "before" images published by Amnesty as part of a report on the atrocities were taken on January 2, while the aftermath was documented in pictures taken on January 7.

EINSCHRÄNKUNG Amnesty Meldung Nigeria Zerstörung durch Boko Haram
Satellite images show densely packed structures and tree cover in Doron Baga prior to the Boko Haram attackImage: Amnesty International/DigitalGlobe

In the densely populated town of Baga, some 620 "structures" were damaged or completely destroyed by fire while in neighboring Doron Baga, more than 3,100 structures fell prey.

Escape across lake

Many of the fishing boats along the shoreline of Lake Chad were no longer visible in the January 7 photograph, which would tally with witness accounts that residents used them to flee across the water.

A similar picture of destruction in that attack was apparent in an image tweeted by the group Human Rights Watch. It marked buildings destroyed in the attack on Doron Baga, which is also known as Doro Gowon, in red.

Amnesty called on the governments of Nigeria and neighboring Chad, where many of those who escaped fled, to ensure humanitarian assistance was provided.

Horrific accounts

The group's report featured a witness report from one man who said he was "stepping on bodies" for some five kilometers (three miles) as he fled though the bush.

Among the more harrowing accounts was one claiming that a woman had been shot while giving birth as rebels, believed to have been targeting civilian vigilantes helping the military, also opened fire indiscriminately on residents in Baga. Children were also said to have been gunned down in the same incident.

Nigeria's military, which often plays down the numbers killed in attacks, said this week that 150 people had died. It dismissed as "sensationalist" claims that 2,000 people may have lost their lives.

Security analysts have said the exact number of people killed may never be known, with the town and surrounding area still in rebel control.