Monday, 7 April 2014

Army, Boko Haram Working Together in Parts of Nigeria?

By Pamela Dockins, Voice of America

A Nigerian soldier says he has witnessed incidents that suggest some Nigerian military commanders are working with Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009.

In an exclusive interview with VOA's Hausa service, he described how his military unit, based in the northeastern Borno State region, was ambushed by Boko Haram fighters.

The soldier, who did not want to be identified, said the commander of a nearby military unit, based in the town of Bama, recently sought assistance from his unit in carrying out a raid.

The soldier said when the two military units joined up, they were given different uniforms. The Bama unit commander gave his own troops green uniforms. The soldier said his unit received tan "desert camouflage" uniforms.

When the troops reached the battle area, the soldier said the commander of the better-equipped Bama unit suddenly withdrew his forces, leaving the remaining troops to fend for themselves against Boko Haram fighters.

Speaking in Hausa, he said, "We had only light arms and our men were being picked off one after the other."

The soldier also said he recognized some of the Boko Haram fighters as his former military trainers in Kontagora, a town near the capital, Abuja.

"We realized that some of them were actually mercenaries from the Nigerian army... hired to fight us," he said.

This soldier and others have said that too often, commanders have pocketed money that was supposed to be used to help equip units.

Government has no comment

VOA has made repeated attempts to get reaction from the Nigerian government for this story but no officials have been willing to speak on the record.

However, in a January 2012 speech, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Boko Haram members have infiltrated his government's executive, legislative and judicial sectors, as well as the police and armed forces.