Caught between Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces - a bitter cycle of violence
Government security officials search a vehicle along the Gombe-Maiduguri expressway in Borno, Nigeria © REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

For most Nigerians and keen observers of African affairs Boko Haram has become a household name. And not for good reasons. Through bombings, suicide attacks and shootings, the group has attacked churches, schools, government barracks - to name just a few - killing thousands in their wake.

Mainly operating in the north of Nigeria, barely a month goes by without news of a Boko Haram attack. The most recent taking place just this Sunday when at least seven people were killed in a suicide bomb attack of a church. The bomb went off during Mass.

Wherever Boko Haram roams, an atmosphere of fear reigns. Yet, perhaps even more tragically, as Amnesty points out in its new report published today, Nigeria’s security forces - who have a responsibility to protect civilians - are also committed atrocities against Nigeria’s people.

In Will Ross’ piece on the Today programme this morning (skip to 2 hours 50 minutes into the recording) one man recounts how shortly after Boko Haram carried out an attack, the Nigerian security forces rolled in and began shooting civilians. He describes how his young son was shot by soldiers, and later died in hospital: "Why did these soldiers come? They just opened fire. They shoot him. They rush him to hospital but the nurses say he has died. My son died."

Unfortunately, there are many more grieving fathers, sisters, sons. Our researchers spoke to a 32-year old man whose brother was killed by Nigeria's security forces in June. He told them: “We are in the middle of two things. If you take a look at your right or you take a look at your left both of them they are deadly. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

Our research has discovered cases of enforced disappearance, torture, extrajudicial executions, the torching of homes and detention without trial.

Amnesty’s Secretary General Salil Shetty is currently in Nigeria where he and other colleagues are meeting senior government officials to discuss these findings. Speaking to the BBC, Salil Shetty said: "The cycle of attack [has] devastating consequences for the human rights of those trapped in the middle."

It’s a human rights tragedy that thousands of men, women and children live in such a vulnerable situation, where they are quite literally caught in the crossfire, caught in the middle of these attacks.

The Nigerian government has to pay attention to these findings and start taking real action to put a stop to any further abuses committed by its own security forces, and to do much more to protect its people from any further terror attacks.

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