Fighting between and members killed at least 185 people in Baga, a fishing community in , officials said Sunday, an attack that saw insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers spray machine-gun fire into neighborhoods filled with civilians.

The fighting in Baga began Friday and lasted for hours, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad.

By Sunday, when government officials finally felt safe enough to see the destruction, homes, businesses and vehicles were burned throughout the area.

Authorities had found and buried at least 185 bodies as of Sunday afternoon, said Lawan Kole, a local government official in Baga.

He spoke haltingly to Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima in the Kanuri language, surrounded by still-frightened villagers.
Brig. Gen. Austin Edokpaye, also on the visit, did not dispute the casualty figures. Edokpaye said the extremists used heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the assault, which began after soldiers surrounded a mosque they believed housed members of the radical extremist network Boko Haram.

JTF-soldiersEdokpaye said extremists used civilians as human shields during the fighting – implying that soldiers opened fire in neighborhoods where they knew civilians lived.

“‘When we reinforced and returned to the scene the terrorists came out with heavy firepower, including (rocket-propelled grenades), which usually has a conflagration effect,” the general said.

Sunday afternoon, the burned bodies of cattle and goats still filled the streets. Bullet holes marred burned buildings.
“Everyone has been in the bush since Friday night; we started returning back to town because the governor came to town today,” grocer Bashir Isa said. “To get food to eat in the town now is a problem because even the markets are burnt. We are still picking corpses of women and children in the bush and creeks.”

SOURCE: AP Press

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