CAIRO - Brutal tactics and human rights abuses committed by security forces, including unlawful killings and enforced disappearances, are fuelling an insurgency by the militant group Boko Haram, a leading rights group said Thursday, November 1.
"Every injustice carried out in the name of security only fuels more terrorism, creating a vicious circle of murder and destruction," Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a report on the group's website.
The London-based group said brutal practices by Nigerian security forces to quell attacks by Boko Haram were giving ammunition to the insurgency.
"The cycle of attack and counter-attack has been marked by unlawful violence on both sides, with devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle."
Amnesty listed cases of abuses by Nigerian security forces in the name of fighting Boko Haram attacks.
It said a number of people had been executed without due process after arrest on suspicion of links to Boko Haram.
The report also showed that hundreds of people were detained without charge or trial and many of those arrested disappeared or were later found dead.
"Hundreds of people accused of links to Boko Haram have been arbitrarily detained without charge or trial; others have been extrajudicially executed or subjected to enforced disappearance," the report said.
"At the same time, the Nigerian government has failed to adequately prevent or investigate the attacks or to bring perpetrators to justice; and victims have not received prompt and adequate reparation and remedy.
Amnesty cited testimonies of witnesses who described the killing of people, who were unarmed and lying down with their hands over their heads by soldiers.
In one case, a widow described how soldiers put a gun against her husband's head three times and told him to say his last prayers before shooting him dead.
Soldiers then burned down their home. She now fends for her seven children alone.
Boko Haram, a Hausa term meaning "Western education is sinful", is loosely modeled on Afghanistan's Taliban.
The militant group says it is fighting enemies who have wronged its members through violence, arrests or economic neglect and corruption.
It has been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and churches in the north since 2009.
Amnesty report cited the testimony of a Nigerian man, whose brother was arrested by security forces and later found his dead body at a police station.
There were [what looked like] cable marks on his body, bruises everywhere, the man told Amnesty.
The right side of his head was bruised. There was shock on his face. I can't forget that, he said.
I haven't made a complaint. I'm afraid.
Amnesty said that the brutal practices of the Nigerian security forces were living Nigerian civilians living in a state of fear.
"People are living in a climate of fear and insecurity, vulnerable to attack from Boko Haram and facing human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces which should be protecting them," Shetty said.
The government of Nigeria must take effective action to protect the population against Boko Harem's campaign of terror in northern and central Nigeria, but they must do so within the boundaries of the rule of law.
Nigerian officials dismissed the accusations as biased.
Defense spokesman Colonel Mohammed Yerima said that Nigerian forces only kill Boko Haram suspects during gunfights, never in executions
"We don't torture people, defense spokesman Colonel Mohammed Yerima told Reuters.
We interview a suspect, if he is not involved we let him go. If he is involved we hand him to the police," he said.
"I totally disagree with this report. It is biased and it is mischievous."
Nigeria, one of the world's most religiously committed nations, is divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
Muslims and Christians, who constitute 55 and 40 percent of Nigeria's 140 million population respectively, have lived in peace for the most part.But ethnic and religious tensions have bubbled for years, fuelled by decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands with migrants and settlers from the Hausa-speaking Muslim north.