Amnesty International, a human rights group, and the Nigerian Army are trading accusations over the recent Boko Haram attack in Borno State.
The human rights group had accused the army of burning some villages in Borno, one of the worst-hit states by the insurgency in the North-East.
The group also accused the army of displacing residents of the affected villages in response to escalation in attacks by Boko Haram insurgents recently.
AI said, “These brazen acts of razing entire villages, deliberately destroying civilian homes and forcibly displacing their inhabitants with no imperative military grounds, should be investigated as possible war crimes,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“They repeat a long-standing pattern of the Nigerian military meting out brutal tactics against the civilian population. Forces allegedly responsible for such violations must be suspended immediately and brought to justice.”
Reacting to the accusation, the Defence Headquarters accused Amnesty of deliberately supporting the acts of terrorism perpetrated against Nigeria by Boko Haram and Islamic State of West African State terror groups.
Onyema Nwachukwu, Acting Director of Defence Information, in a statement, cautioned the group to put an end to its reckless distortion of facts in its bid to satisfy “its puppeteers by undermining Nigeria’s military campaign against terrorism in the North-East”.
According to the statement, “The Defence Headquarters has taken cognizance of yet another falsified report by Amnesty International in a campaign of calumny targeting the Nigerian Military and deliberately supporting the callous acts of terrorism perpetuated by Boko Haram Terrorists and Islamic State of West African Province.
“This inglorious campaign is contained in a recent report alleging employment of unlawful tactics of razing down villages and unlawful detention of locals by troops. This is line with the AIs usual mannerism and tenacious efforts aimed at disparaging the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
“The Defence Headquarters wishes to state unambiguously that the allegations being touted by AI are nothing but a betrayal of its lack of in-depth knowledge of the goings-on in the North East theatre of operation.”
It continued, “It is expedient to state that troops of Operation Lafiya Dole who are conducting Counter Terrorism and Counter Insurgency Operations in the NE do not employ arson as an operational tactic. It is a well-known fact, going by the modus operandi of BHTs, that they have more often than not engaged in the atrocious acts of looting and burning of villages, as well as destroying infrastructures.
“It therefore, beats ones imagination that AI is attributing these atrocities to AFN troops who are legitimately defending the country guided by extant rules of engagement and operational codes of conduct.
“AI must understand the fact that Nigeria is at war against terrorism in the NE and that the troops have a constitutional mandate to protect lives and property, even if it means conducting an evacuation to save and secure lives of civilians in the conflict. Protecting civilians by evacuating them from the line of fire during combat is not a violation of the international law of conflict or a war crime.
“We urge members of the public to please discountenance AIs report, as it is not a true and realistic reflection of troops’ counter terrorism operation in the NE.”