* Boko Haram most likely committed crimes against humanity
* Nigerian security forces accused of widespread abuses
* At least 2,800 people killed in insurgency since 2009
By Tim Cocks
LAGOS, Oct 11 Islamist sect Boko Haram and
Nigerian security forces might well have committed crimes
against humanity during three years of conflict that has killed
at least 2,800 people, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on
Crimes against humanity are offences that can lead to
prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Boko Haram says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in
Nigeria, and its fighters have killed hundreds in bomb and gun
attacks since launching an uprising in 2009. The sect has become
the No. 1 security threat to Africa's top energy producer.
The report documents multiple cases of abuses by Islamists,
including brutal killings of Christian civilians and the
assassination of Muslim clerics who criticise them.
Some of these attacks were "deliberate acts leading to
population 'cleansing' based on religion or ethnicity". The ICC
defines crimes against humanity as grave offences that are
"widespread or systematic".
There was no immediate reaction from Boko Haram.
The report also accused Nigeria's joint military and police
joint taskforce (JTF) of "physical abuse, secret detentions,
extortion, burning of houses, stealing money during raids, and
extrajudicial killings of suspects".
"Despite allegations of widespread security force abuses,
the Nigerian authorities have rarely held anyone accountable ...
further solidifying the culture of impunity for violence."
The study came as Nigeria's military tried to fend off
accusations of a shooting spree in the insurgent stronghold of
Maiduguri on Monday that residents say killed at least 30
Asked about the report, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, JTF
spokesman for Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital,
reiterated a statement on Wednesday that there was no evidence
of such abuses.
"There is no established or recorded case of extrajudicial
killing, torture, arson or arbitrary arrest by the JTF in Borno
state", where most of the violence has occurred, he said.
"It is important to state that terrorists killed were during
gun battles with the JTF troops", not executions, he said.
The military campaign against Boko Haram has had some
success - limiting Boko Haram's ability to carry out large scale
attacks, but the heavy-handedness has angered locals.
"These killings, and clashes with the group, have raised the
death toll of those killed by Boko Haram or security forces to
more than 2,800 people since 2009," the HRW report said.