An attack by gunmen in north-east Nigeria has left at least 20 people dead in what appears to have been a mass execution. While it remains unclear who was responsible for the killings, the area has been at the centre of a recent crackdown on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
Terrorist attacks attributed to Boko Haram have killed over 1,000 people in northern Nigeria this year. In the latest attack, at a university campus in the town of Mubi, students were reportedly lined up and asked to say their names. Information remains uncertain, but reports indicate that at least 20 and up to 40 students were then shot or stabbed to death.
Whoever is behind these atrocious killings (they may instead be linked to recent student elections at the campus), the deteriorating situation in Nigeria's largely Muslim north needs urgent attention. In a region home to 90 million people, the economy is in crisis and government corruption is endemic. Literacy rates and incomes in the area are miles behind the south.
When Boko Haram’s attacks began to increase in 2009, the governor of Borno, a state in the north-east, unleashed an indiscriminate crackdown that saw about 1,000 people killed and many more imprisoned without trial. The government has the right and responsibility to protect its citizens from violent extremists. But security responses must respect human rights and be employed alongside attempts to ease sectarian tensions, engage in dialogue and address the underlying issues of corruption and poverty.
Read more: The Economist has a timely and in-depth briefing on Boko Haram – and why political and social injustice is driving the movement more than religious extremism.
Sources: BBC, Economist, Guardian