Nigeria: Zabarmari Massacre - UN Withdraws Claim 110 Died in Boko Haram Attack

Hundreds of residents mourned as they gathered to bury corpses of 43 farmers slaughtered in Zabarmari village, a rice-producing community located in Borno State
30 November 2020

In the new release, the United Nations says, "tens of civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack."

The United Nations on Monday recanted an earlier claim that 110 farmers were killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents in Zabarmari community, Borno State.

PREMIUM TIMES had published a report on Saturday quoting officials of the Borno State government saying at least 43 farmers lost their lives in an attack by insurgents on a rice field.

On Sunday, the Borno governor, Babagana Zulum, had during a mass burial of the deceased farmers, told journalists that 43 farmers were killed. Later on Sunday evening, the UN issued a statement which quoted the head of the UN System in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, saying that at least 110 farmers were killed in the said attack.

The UN version of the death toll from Koshobe rice field went viral.

In the initial UN statement, signed by Eve Sabbagh, UN's Head of Public Information at the OCHA in Nigeria, Mr Kallon said he was "outraged and horrified by the gruesome attack against civilians carried out by non-state armed groups in villages near Borno State capital Maiduguri."

He added that "at least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack."

Withdrawal

In a new release on Monday, the UN said its initial statement was inaccurate.

The UN's head, public information, said the earlier numbers quoted by Mr Kallon were not correctly sourced. In an email circulated to reporters, Ms Sabbagh asked journalists to disregard the earlier statement.

"Please note the number of 110 civilians killed on Saturday's attack is an unconfirmed number and the correct version of the statement by the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator is the one published yesterday on Reliefweb and used on OCHA Nigeria's Twitter account:

In the fresh statement, the humanitarian agency replaced the portion where it quoted "110 deaths" with "unspecified figure".

This time around, Mr Kallon was quoted saying "tens of civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack."

The remaining paragraphs of the one-paged statement remained the same.

The UN did not, however, add how it got the earlier figure it released and which was quoted by at least one international media outlet.

Meanwhile, sources in Zabarmari had confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that a search party was still combing the bushes for other missing farmers at the time our reporter visited the farm.

"The number of death remains the same," he said. "We have not had any other corpses other than the 43 we buried yesterday; even though we know about 70 farmers were involved in the incident."

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