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Secret military cemetery hides Toll Islamist uprising in Nigeria

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – On the northern fringe of this city's sprawling military base, hidden within a vast field of aground earth lies the hidden number of a deadly offensive by the Islamic State's allies.

After dark, the corpses of the soldiers According to Nigerian soldiers, diplomats and a high-ranking government official, the bodies are secretly transported from a morgue that is sometimes overcrowded. The bodies are placed with flashlights in trenches excavated by infantry or indigenous villagers.

"Some of my comrades were buried in unmarked graves at night," said a soldier from the Maimalari barracks, where more than 1,000 soldiers lived. Soldiers are stationed. "They die and are deleted from history."

The secret cemetery in Maimalari is not the only one in restless northeastern Nigeria.

Mercy Tamuno in Abuja, Nigeria, wearing her husband's uniform. Officials told her he had been killed in an insurgent attack on an outpost in the northeast of the country.

The burials convey an image that is in conflict with a war. The country's former general, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, has repeatedly claimed that his army has won.

] The reality is that Africa's largest land force – an ally of US counterterrorism – is fighting an uprising that broke out a decade ago, and now by the Islamic State and the return of fighters from Libya, Syria and rejuvenating Iraq.

The Insurgents Now you control hundreds of square miles of territory in four countries around the Lake Chad, an intersection of Africa where US, British and French forces have bases or special units. On Sunday, armed men attacked a funeral on the outskirts of Maiduguri, killing at least 65 people, according to government officials.

said Site Intelligence, a terrorism monitoring group.

The Nigerian government no longer reported last summer on the deaths of soldiers fighting Boko Haram insurgents and a splinter group called the Islamic State West Africa Province. Mr. Buhari was re-elected in February after a security-focused campaign in which he reiterated that Islamist uprisings in Nigeria had been "technically defeated."

Front Lines

The Islamic State Chapter ISWAP and the Boko Haram Rebellion have thousands of fighters in northeastern Nigeria.

Islamic State Chapter ISWAP and the Boko Haram Rebellion have thousands of fighters in northeastern Nigeria.

But the extensive secret cemetery in Maiduguri and an official cemetery at the base, the Einsatzkommando for On the northeastern front of the state of Borno are now at least 1,000, according to soldiers and military officials, some of whom had estimated a much higher death toll Soldiers have been killed since the terrorist groups launched an offensive last summer.

The Nigerian military and presidency did not respond to requests for commentary on the war, the victims and the secret cemeteries.

In November Mercy Tamuno was told by her husband that Adah had been killed in an insurgent attack on an outpost in Cross Kauwa, a town about 100 miles north of Maiduguri. When she wanted to see where he was buried, she was taken to the official cemetery in Maimalari, where graves are marked with plywood. There she was taken to a place labeled with a plastic bottle with her husband's name.

"It was the only one that was labeled that way. I'm not sure if it was his grave, but that's what the army told me, "said Mrs. Tamuno.

Two soldiers from Lance Cpl. Tamuno's unit said he had been buried in the secret cemetery the day before Plastic bottle was ready to appease his wife, they said.

"We know he was buried in the unmarked tomb, there was no funeral," one said.

With the growth of the secret cemetery in the Maimalari – Barracks, the military has extended the area to adjacent fields. "The farmland has been fenced so they can bury the armed forces," said Sarah James, a 50-year-old farmer whose husband is a retired soldier.

Sarah James, left and others who live near the Maimalari barracks Maiduguri, who said they gave up land that they had farmed for years to make room for the expansion of the base cemetery.

Nigeria's Mil Iter built this barrier to clear the farmland on the northern edge of the base in Maiduguri. On the other side is a spreading cemetery.

Due to official secrecy and the weak economy, Nigerian soldiers are ill equipped to fight. Morality collapses and discipline begins to deteriorate, said soldiers and the senior government official. Soldiers, who usually migrate every few months, have been in action for years.

Wall Street Journal videos show Nigerian troops imposing cruel punishments on suspected jihadists. The videos, which show the dismemberment and killing of suspects, indicate that troops are suffering from trauma and need training in human rights issues, said David Otto, director of security firm Global Risk International.

Units that suffered casualties and lost morale. & # 39; They are able to attack and instead defend poorly built bases in exposed areas against an increasingly well-equipped enemy.

"There is a systematic misrepresentation of the war that has serious tactical and operational consequences," said Chidi Nwaonu Vox Peccavi, a former Nigerian soldier who runs a security consulting firm today.

He said the bravery of the troops was being undermined by bad decisions of high commanders. "It's part of the crime, part of the conspiracy," he said.

The rapid rise of the Islamic state split in Nigeria known as ISWAP opens a new chapter for the jihadist movement following its defeat in Syria and Iraq, Nigeria and the West. Officials said:

The estimated 5,000 ISWAP fighters have settled in the border areas around Lake Chad, where they become entangled in communities, control trade routes, tax the fishery and establish an extremist brand of Islamic justice.

A military security post on a main street in Maiduguri.

The commanders of the Islamic State advised them to focus their attacks on security forces, in contrast to Boko Haram, who used hundreds of suicide bombers in 2014 and abducted 276 schoolgirls. ISWAP usually attacks at night when the Nigerian Air Force is less effective.

President Trump has offered extra support to the Nigerian military in the United States. US experts train Nigerian bomb squadrons, and the US has Sierra Nevada Corp. commissioned $ 329 million in November for 12 light A-29 fighter aircraft for the Nigerian Air Force with the goal of completion by 2024.

The Nigerian army is so thinly stretched that its top captains are no longer serious about defeating the insurgency, but only to curb Naval ships and warn government troops "before we catch them" to repent. The video shows militants killing four Nigerian soldiers with shots and another with missile grenades.

Soldiers are forbidden to speak to the media and some commanders Do not report deaths to save on tight budgets, soldiers and diplomats said.

But the news on social media is gradually spreading. After an attack on the military base in Metelee on the Nigerian border with Niger and Chad in November, a five-minute video was distributed among soldiers that showed the aftermath. Through images of smoldering tanks and armored vehicles, a narrator laments the quality of the military equipment the base has received.

"Look at the weapons they bring here. These do not work, "he says. "No fewer than 100 soldiers died here. Many are missing, they are nowhere to be found.

The Nigerian military initially refused to comment on the attack. After questions from the Senate, the military said 23 soldiers had been killed. It was said that false casualties and the exchange of inaccurate videos had reinforced the "propaganda intention of the terrorists".

The Nigerian journalist Timothy Olanrewaju said the military had told him his brother, a sergeant, was safe in action.

When Timothy Journalist Olanrewaju, who lives in Maiduguri, reiterated his brother Sgt. Samuel Olanrewaju for four months that his brother was fine, but he was stationed in a sensitive combat zone.

Mr. Olanrewaju learned of his brother's fate in early July when he saw a video about the Islamic State that showed his execution. A few hours later, he was still shocked, slumped on a mattress in his living room, struggling for words. "I could not believe my eyes," he said. "Why did not you tell me the truth?"

The secrecy of the armed forces on victims is so widespread that it is unclear whether Nigeria's political leaders are aware of the state of the conflict.

Share Your Thoughts

How Should Military Officials Inform the Public? Does the truth help the enemy? Join the following conversation .

When President Buhari visited the base in Maiduguri in November, commanders rushed to the bases, which had accumulated after the recent attack on the base in Metele and several other soldiers in the mortuary. They brought the bodies from the morgue under the cover of darkness into the unmarked graves.

"We could see the headlights and torches of the Engineering Department digging out the graves," said a soldier. After the president's arrival, additional medical personnel were hired to handle the dozens of wounded soldiers at the base's infirmaries.

Mr. Buhari arrived with a large group of reporters reporting on his re-election campaign. The former general had put the security front at the center.

When the President delivered a rousing speech to the soldiers, some tried to disturb him in order to register complaints about their condition.

Mr. Buhari promised his audience "to do everything in my power to further strengthen you" and promised to improve the well-being of the soldiers. "Please keep your loyalty to the land," he said.

Write to [Parkinson] Joe Parkinson at [email protected]

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