Soldiers who liberated the Nigerian town of Damasak from Boko Haram militants on Saturday have discovered the bodies of at least 70 people, many with their throats slit.
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In what appeared to be an execution site for the Islamist group, the bodies were strewn beneath a concrete bridge on one of the main roads leading out of the town. At least one was decapitated.
The bodies were partially mummified by the dry desert air, while grass had begun to grow around the corpses, suggesting the killings had taken place some time ago.
Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in a six-year insurgency aimed at establishing an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria. Damasak was seized by the Islamist group last November, but recaptured on Saturday by troops from Niger and Chad, who were part of an international force.
Chadian soldiers, who said the bodies were discovered on Thursday, spoke of more than 100 corpses in the area around the dry river bed. A Reuters witness was able to count at least 70.
A strong smell of decomposition in many parts of town suggested there could be more bodies concealed there, the witness said.
A trail of blackened blood was visible along the side of the bridge facing the bodies, suggesting they had been thrown off the side after being killed. Among the dead was the town’s imam.
All but around 50 of the town’s residents had fled by the time Damasak was recaptured. Those who remained were mostly too old or sick to leave.
“People were in town when they [Boko Haram] attacked. They fired at us, we ran away to the bushes, but they continued to fire and chased some people to kill them,” said Damasak resident Mbodou Moussa.
Chad’s military spokesman, Colonel Azem Bermandoa, said the Chadians had asked Nigeria’s military to occupy the town, and would remain there until Nigerian troops arrived.