28th October, 2013
Thirty-five bodies in military uniform have been brought to a morgue in Damaturu, Yobe state, in Nigeria’s restive northeast after last Thursday’s coordinated assault by Boko Haram targeting the security forces.
The French news agency, AFP, quoting hospital sources reported the high death toll, which has not been admitted by Nigeria’s military authorities.
The death toll may be the highest ever recorded by Nigerian soldiers since a state or emergency was imposed on the state and neighbouring states of Borno and Adamawa.
The attack on Thursday night was the first raid in a major urban centre in several weeks by the insurgent group waging a four-year Islamist uprising.
Police and residents said large numbers of Boko Haram fighters, some in vehicles and some on foot, stormed Damaturu after dark.
Armed with guns and explosives, they attacked and torched four police buildings, sparking a fierce, hours-long gun battle with the security forces.
“We have received lots of bodies in the last three days from the attacks. I counted 35 bodies in military uniform,” said a senior official at the Damaturu Specialist Hospital, who requested anonymity.
An army officer based in the central city of Jos said 20 soldiers had been admitted at a hospital there, suffering from “gunshot wounds sustained in the battle against Boko Haram in Damaturu.”
“They were brought here for security reasons and better medical facilities,” said the officer, who also asked his name be withheld.
The military rarely discusses troop fatalities following Islamist attacks and local officials who disclose such details have faced pressure to keep quiet.
Contacted by AFP on Monday, Yobe state military spokesman Lazarus Eli did not deny reports that dozens of soldiers were killed during the clash.
“We do not have any data on the death toll,” Lazarus said.
Boko Haram has repeatedly worn military uniforms as a disguise during attacks and it was not yet clear if the corpses were those of insurgents or troops.
The day after the attack, witnesses and local officials did not say the insurgents who staged it were disguised in uniforms.