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Nigerian Government Massacre Likely to Energize Boko Haram

The battle lines are drawn in Nigeria: the government’s security services just executed “dozens” of youths in a northern town known as Boko Haram’s stronghold. The BBC reports:

Dozens of young men have been shot dead in Nigeria by the military in Maiduguri, residents in the north-eastern city have told the BBC. . .

Malam Aji Mustapha, an imam in Maiduguri, said after morning prayers on Thursday soldiers took him and his children to an open field where many people had already been taken.

He told the BBC’s Newsday programme that they were told to lie on the ground.

People were called forward for a screening process – the young men were checked against photos on a computer database and some of them were separated.

He said that they were ordered to look away and then he heard gunshots.

“They killed four of my children in front of me. They took their bodies to the mortuary of the general hospital,” he said.

When he went to collect the bodies later, he saw the bodies of 48 youths, the imam said.

Presumably the military men were searching for people connected to Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks on civilians, police, and military installations, including, on a number of occasions, the brutal slaughter of Christian worshippers in church.

But the military is going about its hunt for Boko Haram the wrong way. What, precisely, the military thought the execution of 48 unarmed young men would accomplish, we will never know. However, what we think it will accomplish is to energize Boko Haram, driving other young men into its embrace. More, it will reinforce the widespread belief among northern Nigerians that the state is not there to protect them but to oppress them. It will convince northerners that the military presumes every one of them is an enemy, even young boys. Consider the response from Nigeria’s widely respected finance minister, once a candidate for head of the World Bank: She justified the recent killings as a hunt for “terrorists” and denied the army had been heavy-handed.

That’s a dangerous mindset, and it will only make Nigeria’s bloody battle with Boko Haram even bloodier.

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