Nigeria denies ‘secret cemetery’ for slain soldiers

Nigeria’s government says a Wall Street Journal report that alleges the military maintains a secret graveyard in the country’s north-east was written from an “uninformed position”.

The paper stated that corpses of Nigerian soldiers fighting a bloody Islamist insurgency were secretly transported from a mortuary in the dead of the night to a vast field near the Maimalari barracks to the north of Maiduguri and buried in “trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift”.

The paper, which said its report was based on accounts from soldiers, diplomats and a senior government official, alleges the military uses the secret cemetery to cover up its losses in its conflict against the Boko Haram Islamist militants.

In a statement, Nigeria’s defence headquarters said the armed forces did not “indulge in secret burials, as it is sacrilegious and a profanity to extant ethos and traditions of the Nigerian military”.

The statement added that “fallen heroes” were given befitting military funeral of “international standard”, as well as “gun salutes, aside other military funeral rites”.

This week marked 10 years since the leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in police custody, leading to the group launching an insurgency that has left more than 30,000 people dead and displaced more than two million people.

More recently a splinter arm of the group that emerged with ties to the Islamic State group has been carrying out devastating attacks on the military, but the authorities insist it is a war the country is winning.

The BBC’s Mayeni Jones has examined the roots of the militant group. Watch her report about whether it will remain a force in the region in the next decade. -BBC

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