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Nigeria president visits site of Boko Haram massacre

AFP , Thursday 26 Feb 2015
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Views: 1131

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday visited the town of Baga where Boko Haram Islamists are accused of slaughtering hundreds of people last month in the group's worst-ever massacre.

"I went... to visit communities devastated by the excesses of Boko Haram," Jonathan told journalists in the city of Maiduguri after the tour.

"I just went to see things for myself."

Jonathan's visit came after the head of the Nigerian Army, Lieutenant General Kenneth Minimah, visited troops in Baga on Wednesday, telling them: "The war is almost ended."

Boko Haram took over Baga, in northern Borno on the shores of Lake Chad, on January 3 and are feared to have killed hundreds of people, if not more, and forced thousands of civilians to flee.

Jonathan has been criticised widely for his failure to end the insurgency and after the February 14 election was delayed for six weeks because of the reinvigorated counter-offensive in the northeast.

Some critics have claimed that the vote postponement until March 28 was because he and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party wanted more time to revive their campaign in the closely fought race for the top job.

On the visit, Jonathan said he paid tribute to the soldiers for their "gallantry efforts" and extended the country's appreciation.

More than 13,000 people have been killed and some 1.5 million others made homeless by the violence since 2009. In Baga, much of the town and surrounding communities was burnt to the ground.

But Jonathan said that the government would "handle the rehabilitation of damaged communities".

On Monday, Jonathan claimed that the "tide had turned" against Boko Haram, despite twin bombings in the northeast that left nearly 50 dead.

On Thursday, where another suicide bombing killed 18 in the southern Borno town of Biu, he said he was still "very hopeful this time around that the journey to end (the) Boko Haram insurgency has commenced very aggressively and will soon get to an end".

Jonathan was accompanied on the visit by the military's highest ranking officer, chief of defence staff Air Marshal Alex Badeh, Minimah and National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki.

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