The leader of the terror group Boko Haram says God commanded him to massacre hundreds of people in northeastern Nigeria, an attack described by human rights groups as the worst so far by the militia.
More than 7500 people fled the assault that began January 3 on the town of Baga on Lake Chad, according to the United Nations. Survivors described Boko Haram gunmen shooting people on sight, or dragging them from their homes and killing them.
Claiming responsibility for the massacre, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a YouTube video released on Tuesday (local time) that the devastation of the Baga attack was nothing compared to future attacks he was planning.
“We are the ones who fought the people of Baga, and we have killed them with such a killing as he (God) commanded us in his book,” said Shekau, as Nigeria and its neighbours worked to deploy a regional force to confront the violent Islamist militia.
“This is just the beginning of the killings,” he said. “What you’ve just witnessed is a tip of the iceberg. More deaths are coming.”
In the 35-minute video, Shekau also burned Nigeria’s flag and declared the country’s constitution dead. “This will mark the end of politics and democracy in Nigeria,” he said as gunmen fired automatic weapons into the air, yelling “God is great”.
Satellite images released last week showed thousands of houses in Baga and neighbouring Doron Baga burned down in the attack. An accurate count of how many were killed has not been reached, but they range from several hundred to 2000 people.
In recent weeks, Boko Haram has also attacked villages in neighbouring Cameroon, abducting dozens of children and adults, but the militia was driven back by Cameroonian forces on Monday, freeing many of the prisoners.
The government of Cameroon said on Wednesday that its forces had also freed a German hostage, schoolteacher Nitsch Eberhard Robert, with the help of the forces of allies, without specifying which countries were involved. Robert was kidnapped by Boko Haram in Adamawa state last July.
Fighting was reported on Tuesday in the northwest Cameroon village of Bonderi, near the border with Nigeria.
Boko Haram is fighting to impose an Islamic state in Nigeria based on a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. The group opposes democracy and secular education, and has attacked schools, killed male students and teachers and kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls.
Elections are due next month, but won’t take place in the dozens of towns and villages Boko Haram controls in a vast area around the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the militia’s birthplace.
In the video, Shekau taunted West African leaders who are working to deploy the regional force, and mocked Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, who took part in a recent rally of world leaders in Paris showing solidarity after the terror attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Baga was to be the headquarters of the 2800-strong regional force, which was supposed to be launched in November after an agreement among Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon the month before. But before the January 3 attack on Baga, Niger’s soldiers had departed and the Chadian forces had not yet been deployed, leaving Nigerian forces to confront the militants alone and undermining trust among the neighbours.
Chad sent a force to Cameroon last weekend to help prevent the Boko Haram insurgency from spreading across the region.
When Boko Haram seized Baga, it took over the military base, along with weapons and ammunition. Shekau flaunted an arsenal of sophisticated weaponry in the YouTube video and said he was ready for any attack.
“Kings of Africa, you are late,” he said. “I challenge you to attack me even now. I’m ready.”