Premium Times (Abuja)

29 April 2013

Nigeria: Why JTF Raids in Borno Leave Hundreds of Houses Burnt Causing Deaths

Photo: Premium Times
Baga, Nigeria

The JTF uses a special bullet that explode on impact with targets.

The raids by the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, keeping peace in Boko Haram infested Northern Nigeria, often leave behind burnt houses with scores of civilian carnages.

Recently, about 200 civilians died in a raid at the border town of Baga, Borno state, that left over 2000 burnt houses. Most of the civilians died of arson caused by the JTF, residents said.

Another raid in Bama last week Thursday left at least 17 people dead and over 200 houses burnt.

Following the Monday carnage in Bama, a high ranking military officer, A.G Laka, confirmed earlier suspicions that the Nigerian soldiers are responsible for most of the arson that follow its raids in search of members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect.

The resulting fires are footprints of the Tracer Bullet brand of ammunition the JTF use in their battle against the terror sect.

Often, members of Boko Haram complicates their battle with the Nigerian government by using women and children as shield, while attacking the JTF.

Most of the carnages have been reported in areas with high density of thatch houses - made with grass - or poorly constructed village mud houses with wooden roofings.

How Tracer Bullets work

A tracer bullet is a normal bullet that has the bottom end of the bullet filled with a pyrotechnic substance - resembling a little bit of road flare.

When the tracer bullet shoots out of the gun, the heat from the exploding gunpowder ignites the flare material. It burns very brightly to produce a rocket-like projectile visible to the naked eyes. Tracer Bullets were first introduced in 1915 during the Great War, by the Brits to enable shooters follow the projectile trajectory in order to make aiming corrections in subsequent shots.

Recently, tracer bullets are commonly used by squad leaders to mark targets for their soldiers to fire on. Tracers are also sometimes placed two or three rounds from the bottom of magazines to alert the shooters that their weapon is almost empty.

On the bad side, tracer bullets make it more likely for targets to explode. Tracer bullets ignite fuel. If used without discretion, it could cause massive fire outbreaks.

The commanding military officer in charge of Bama Barracks, A.G Laka, confirmed on Monday that the JTF indeed uses the tracer bullets.

He described it as a "special bullets" fired by his men.

"Once they hit target they catch fire," he said. The JTF have in the past blamed the terrorists for the arson and carnages. It is unclear if the terrorists use Tracer Bullets also.

Mr. Laka's Monday confirmation is the first key explanation of the high civilian casualties in JTF operations.

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