Nigerian soldiers angry about the killing of an officer shot dead more than 30 civilians yesterday in a northeastern city long under siege by a radical Islamist sect.
The attack came from soldiers attached to a special military unit on guard in Maiduguri, the spiritual home of the sect known as Boko Haram, in an effort to supposedly protect its citizens from the violence gripping the city. The killings likely will further antagonize a population already alienated by checkpoints, security force harassment, and the threat of being killed by soldiers who are targets for the sect's increasingly bloody guerrilla attacks.
An Associated Press reporter in Maiduguri counted the dead while on a tour of the still-smoldering neighbourhood yesterday afternoon. The journalist saw no weapons or evidence that the dead belonged to the sect. A soldier nearby, who did not identify himself, claimed the attack was a response to a bombing nearby earlier yesterday that he said killed a lieutenant.
"They killed our officer!" the soldier shouted. "We had no options!"
The AP reporter also saw that soldiers had set fire to about 50 homes and businesses around the area, which sits near the Nigerian Union of Journalists state office and other buildings in Maiduguri. It appeared the soldiers attacked the area using assault rifles and heavy machine guns mounted on armored personnel carriers. Rounds shot from the heavy machine guns destroyed cars and set roofs on fire, which razed buildings and caused damage at a two-storey shopping complex.