Nigerian army accused of burying soldiers in secret cemetery

Nigerian army accused of burying soldiers in secret cemetery

The Nigerian Army has been accused of burying hundreds of soldiers in secret unmarked graves, in a bid to cover up the casualty figures in the ongoing

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The Nigerian Army has been accused of burying hundreds of soldiers in secret unmarked graves, in a bid to cover up the casualty figures in the ongoing war against insurgency within the North East. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the northern edge of Maiduguri city’s sprawling military base, a vast field of churned soil conceals the hidden toll of a deadly offensive by the allies of Islamic State.

It further states that after dark, the bodies of soldiers are covertly transported from a mortuary that at times gets so crowded the corpses are delivered by truck. The report says that the bodies are laid by flashlight into trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift. WSJ says its report is based on accounts from Nigerian soldiers, diplomats, and a senior government official.

A soldier who spoke from the Maimalari barracks is quoted as saying, “Several of my comrades were buried in unmarked graves at night, where more than 1,000 soldiers are based. They are dying and being deleted from history.”

The secret graveyard at Maimalari isn’t the only one in Nigeria’s troubled northeast, said the senior government official quoted by WSJ. Besides, the burials convey a picture at odds with a war Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, has repeatedly claimed his army has won. Nigeria’s government last summer stopped reporting the deaths of soldiers in its fight with Boko Haram insurgents and a splinter group that calls itself Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP. Mr. Buhari was re-elected in February after a security-focused campaign in which he repeated that the Islamist insurgencies in Nigeria had been “technically defeated.”

In November, Mercy Tamuno was told her husband, Adah, had been killed in an insurgent attack on an outpost in Cross Kauwa, a town about 100 miles north of Maiduguri. When she demanded to see where he was buried, she was taken to the official cemetery at Maimalari, where graves are marked with plywood headstones. There she was led to a spot marked with a plastic bottle with her husband’s name written on it.
“It was the only one marked in this way. I’m not sure it was his grave but that’s what the army told me,” Mrs. Tamuno said.

Two soldiers from Lance Cpl. Tamuno’s unit said he had been buried days earlier in the secret graveyard. The plastic bottle was prepared to appease his wife, they said.
“We know he was buried in the unmarked grave. There was no funeral,” one said.

As the secret cemetery at the Maimalari barracks grows, the military has expanded the site into neighboring fields. “The farmland has been fenced off so they can bury the forces,” said Sarah James, a 50-year-old farmer whose husband is a retired soldier.