U.S., U.K. Mulling Initiative to Deal With Boko Haram

Amnesty International says satellite images suggest massive destruction by the Islamist extremist group's recent attacks in in northeastern Nigeria.

AP

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he and his British counterpart are discussing a special initiative to deal with the Boko Haram extremist group in Nigeria and its neighbors.

Speaking in the Bulgarian capital on Thursday, Kerry said Boko Haram is "without question one of the most evil and threatening terrorist entities on the planet." He says their recent attacks in Nigeria's north is a "crime against humanity" and must be addressed.

Kerry said that during breakfast in Sofia with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, they had talked about setting up a new initiative to address Boko Haram and the situation in Nigeria. He did not elaborate on the idea.

The rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that the recent attacks by the radical Islamist group may have killed many more people than the Nigerian government says. 

The government says about 150 people were killed in attacks that started in Baga in the north-east on January 3, downplaying reports that put the death toll at 2,000.

However, satellite images published by Amnesty show that the neighboring towns of Baga or Doron Baga were largely destroyed, with more than 3,700 structures damaged or burned down.

"These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns," with Doron Baga almost completely wiped off the map, said Daniel Eyre, a Nigeria researcher with Amnesty.

Interviews with witnesses, officials and human rights activists suggest that Boko Haram shot hundreds of civilians.

"There were bodies everywhere we looked," one woman told the rights group. Another witness said the insurgents killed even small children and a woman who was in labor.

Eyre said the images suggested a "much higher" death toll than that given by the Nigerian government.

The attacks sent thousands of people fleeing to neighboring countries.

Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamist state, killed thousands of people in northern Nigeria last year alone.

AFP