Nigerian army admits civilians died in multiple battles
The Nigerian military has acknowledged civilians died in recent battles with criminal gangs in the predominantly Christian and oil-rich south and Islamic militants in the country’s largely Muslim north.
Civilians may have been "caught in the crossfire" last week during an offensive against the Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF), the military admitted Sunday.
The NDLF has alleged that the military committed large-scale massacre and rape, with residents of the southern village of Ayakoromo claiming that soldiers attacked civilians and burned many of their houses.
A military spokesman called those allegations “completely false”, but added that when residential homes are used as shelter for wartime actors “such civilian accommodation or office automatically loses that immunity and becomes a military target".
The NDLF and other rebel groups in the region claim to be fighting for a fairer distribution of the region's oil wealth, but some analysts contend they are mercenaries working to advance the interests of local politicians.
The military operation in the south has been suspended while the government assists affected residents.
In the remote northeast region on Sunday a battle between Nigerian security forces and suspected members of a radical Islamist sect has claimed at least nine civilian casualties.
The two alleged members of Boko Haram were killed, but three civilians were victims of stray gunfire and six more were wounded.
Boko Haram translates to “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language, and the group allegedly seeks to implement sharia (Islamic law).
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