Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Extra-Judicial Killings in the North - We Didn't do it, JTF Tells Elders

THE Joint Task Force (JTF) in Borno State Operation Restore Order took on Northern Elders, yesterday, over the claim that the military outfit, raised to curb insurgency, engaged in extra-judicial killings.

The JTF denied the allegation as well as claims of genocide, arson, illegal arrest and detention made against it.

It said in a statement by its spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa: "The attention of the JTF, Operation Restore Order, Maiduguri has been drawn to a publication in which Northern Elders accused the JTF of extra judicial killings, genocide, arson, illegal arrest and detention with particular reference to Maiduguri, Borno State."

Sagir said the intention of the response was not to trade words with the Elders or any person for that matter "but to put issues in correct perspectives for the sake of posterity."

The release stated that the JTF in Maiduguri "has never had a recorded or established case of illegal arrest, detention, extra-judicial killings, genocide or arson."

It added: "Whoever was arrested or detained was done within the law and mandate of the task force because they are suspected terrorists. The task force only where necessary kills in self defence or to save lives of innocent and law abiding citizens and properties.

It is on record that the force has in several occasions unconditionally released several suspects that had no case to answer after diligent and painstaking investigation has been concluded."

It said on the allegation "that in Maiduguri alone, available records indicate the figures of those that were killed by the JTF to be in thousands, most of whom were apprehended, arrested before they were extra-judicially executed: This figure is absolutely wrong, not true and misleading as the JTF within that period never killed or executed the number being peddled. Otherwise the war on terror would have ended by now as the group would have surrendered or dialogue with the Federal Government."

It went on: "Furthermore, killings of innocent and law abiding citizens by the Boko Haram terrorists, their collaborators, hoodlums, bandits, assassins are well known to all. We should also not forget that several security operatives have been killed or maimed by the terrorists, a lot of police stations and military installations destroyed.

For the avoidance of doubt, the JTF is not an army of occupation and we call on our esteemed leaders to assist the JTF and Federal Government to bring the leadership of the terrorist group to the dialogue table as we have the conviction that they have the capacity to assist in ending the crisis."

The task force said it has never acted out of its powers especially regarding state of emergency. "It acted within the mandate and additional powers approved by appropriate authority. Some of the additional powers include; the mandate to conduct cordon and search of suspected premises/areas used by terrorists without warrant; arrest of suspected terrorists found committing or planning to commit an act of terror or criminal act and detention of suspected terrorists in military custody for more than 24 hours," the security outfit added.

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