Wall Street Journal in a new expose alleged that over a thousand Nigerian soldiers have been secretly buried at night by the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration, in order to hide the true state of the war on terror.
According to the report, ‘after dark, the bodies of soldiers are covertly transported from a mortuary that at times gets so crowded the corpses are delivered by truck, according to Nigerian soldiers, diplomats and a senior government official. The bodies are laid by flashlight into trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift’.
“Several of my comrades were buried in unmarked graves at night. “They are dying and being deleted from history” said a soldier from the Maimalari barracks, where more than 1,000 soldiers are based.
The secret graveyard at Maimalari isn’t the only one in Nigeria’s troubled northeast, the senior government official said.
The burials convey a picture at odds with a war Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, has repeatedly claimed his army has won.
The reality is that Africa’s largest land force a U.S. counterterrorism ally is struggling against an insurgency that first flared a decade ago and is now rejuvenated by Islamic State and the return of fighters from Libya, Syria and Iraq.
The insurgents now control hundreds of square miles of territory across four countries around the Lake Chad basin, a crossroads of Africa where the U.S., U.K. and French militaries have bases or provide special-forces training. On Sunday, gunmen attacked a funeral on the outskirts of Maiduguri, killing at least 65 people, according to government officials.
“This group is one of the most effective, if not the most effective Islamic State contingent at the moment,” said Site Intelligence, a terrorism-monitoring group.
Nigeria’s government last summer stopped reporting the deaths of soldiers in its fight with Boko Haram insurgents and a splinter group that calls itself Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP. Mr. Buhari was re-elected in February after a security-focused campaign in which he repeated that the Islamist insurgencies in Nigeria had been “technically defeated.”
But the sprawling secret graveyard in Maiduguri and an official cemetery at the base, the operational command for the northeastern front in Borno State, now hold the bodies of at least 1,000 soldiers killed since the terror groups began an offensive last summer, according to soldiers and military officials—some of whom estimated a far higher death toll.
The Nigerian military and the presidency didn’t respond to requests for comment on the war, casualties and the secret cemeteries.
In November, Mercy Tamuno was told her husband, Adah, had been killed in an insurgent attack on an outpost in Cross Kauwa, a town about 100 miles north of Maiduguri. When she demanded to see where he was buried, she was taken to the official cemetery at Maimalari, where graves are marked with plywood headstones. There she was led to a spot marked with a plastic bottle with her husband’s name written on it.
“It was the only one marked in this way. I’m not sure it was his grave but that’s what the army told me,” Mrs. Tamuno said.
Two soldiers from Lance Cpl. Tamuno’s unit said he had been buried days earlier in the secret graveyard. The plastic bottle was prepared to appease his wife, they said.
“We know he was buried in the unmarked grave. There was no funeral,” one said.
As the secret cemetery at the Maimalari barracks grows, the military has expanded the site into neighboring fields. “The farmland has been fenced off so they can bury the forces,” said Sarah James, a 50-year-old farmer whose husband is a retired soldier.