Nigeria’s military has disputed reports that as many as 2,000 people were killed in a recent assault by militants on a town in the country's northeast, putting the dead at 150, including many of the attackers.
The military, under fire for losing large swaths of the northeast to militants from the group Boko Haram, dismissed reports of the high death toll in the town of Baga, saying it based its lower estimate on investigation and surveillance.
“From all available evidences, the number of people who lost their lives during the attack has so far not exceeded about 150 in the interim,” the Defense Ministry said on Twitter. It said the military had not “given up" on Baga or any part of the country.
In recent days, local officials in Baga also said the toll had been exaggerated.
The military has appealed for international support in the wake of the Baga attack. The Boko Haram crisis has strained relations between Nigeria and the United States, with the former accusing American officials of refusing to supply arms and equipment to help it defeat the militant group.
Nigeria canceled a military training deal last year with the U.S. in response to Washington’s policy of not supplying military equipment to Nigerian forces because of their poor record of human rights.
The U.S. refused to sell Cobra military helicopters to Nigeria, but offered to train a battalion of its soldiers in counterterrorism techniques if Nigeria supplied the equipment.
U.S. Ambassador James Entwhistle told Nigerian television over the weekend that the U.S. flew trainers into Nigeria last year but equipment wasn’t available and the Nigerian government canceled the training agreement.
Horrific accounts of the Baga massacre have emerged in recent days, with witnesses describing streets littered with bodies, women and children shot down and a pregnant woman whose belly was slit. The reports could not be independently verified.
Thousands of people fled to neighboring Chad and Niger this month when Boko Haram attacked 16 villages and towns, including Baga.
Borye Kime, a 40-year-old fisherman who returned to Baga on Monday, said corpses still littered the streets after the Jan. 3 attack on the town.
"The whole town smells of decomposing bodies,” Kime told the news service Agence France-Presse.
Boko Haram fighters attacked a military base in Kolofata, Cameroon, on Monday, but a Cameroonian government officials said Tuesday that the nation's military had driven back the insurgents and killed 143 of them.
Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said several hundred insurgents attacked the base, and fighting continued for five hours before Cameroonian forces repelled the attack.
Boko Haram last week released a YouTube video threatening to attack Cameroon.
Nigeria has also seen several suicide bombings in recent days, carried out by teenage girls with explosives strapped to their bodies. One girl killed 16 people at the Maiduguri market Saturday, which has seen several attacks in recent months by female suicide bombers.
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