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Nigerian Forces Fight To Free Town From Terrorists


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Nigerian forces say that they are battling to regain control of a strategic town and military base in the Northeast. It was captured by suspected Boko Haram fighters this past week. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports that Amnesty International describes the latest repeat raids as perhaps the deadliest massacre in the history of Boko Haram.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Amnesty International says hundreds of bodies littering the bush around Baga in northeastern Nigeria were simply too many to count. Witnesses describe the stench of corpses hanging over the town because there's no one to bury them. Insurgents first struck what was meant to be the base of the regional counterterrorism force and the nearby town a week ago, with another attack mid-week, killing remaining residents and looting and burning property. Senator Maina Maaji Lawan says the Nigerian government is not doing enough to help displaced people driven from their homes seeking refuge across the Lake Chad border.

SENATOR MAINA MAAJI LAWAN: About 10,000 refugees are now at a camp provided by Chadian authorities and they're out in the cold. The Nigerian government is not in touch with them. Really, we need humanitarian organizations before this turns into a humanitarian disaster. Because the entire border, up to Cameroon, up to Niger, is now totally in the hands of Boko Haram.

QUIST-ARCTON: Yet, President Goodluck Jonathan is busy campaigning ahead of next month's vote, seeking re-election for a second term. By the end of the working week, he'd made no comment about the deadly Bagar raids, although he condemned the Charlie Hebdo killings in France. Nigeria's leader and army face mounting criticism about failing to contain the relentless insurgency. Very little is said officially these days about nearly 200 missing schoolgirls abducted in April. President Jonathan's political adversaries accuse him of dragging his feet because the affected northeast area is an opposition stronghold.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Accra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
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