Joy at release of hostages and sorrow for discovery of mass graves

Nigeria

(Agenzia Fides) – The Nigerian army have expressed joy for the release of hostages held by the Boko Haram Islamist sect, but also sorrow for the discovery of mass graves where many victims were buried.

About 300 women and girls were rescued during the military offensive in the Sambisa forest, considered the stronghold of Boko Haram. The girls rescued are not the 200 girls abducted a year ago in the school in Chibok, whose story had caused a stir around the world.

Last week about twenty graves were discovered where hundreds of decomposing bodies had been buried, including those of women and children, in Damasak, Borno State city in the north east of Nigeria, which had fallen in the past year under the control of Boko Haram. The victims were killed during the retreat of the men of the Islamist sect, pressed by the Nigerian military.

“Extremists continue to act because the military have not been able to hit all their strongholds, and I am not surprised that they have attacked new people,” Msgr. Oliver Dashe Doeme, Archbishop of Maiduguri, said to Aid to the Church in Need. Bishop Doeme’s diocese has been particularly affected by the violence of Boko Haram. According to the latest data, 5 thousand of the 125,000 Catholics have been killed by extremists and 100,000 have fled, including 26 of the 46 diocesan priests, 30 religious women, and more than 200 catechists. Of the 40 parish centers, 22 are currently empty or occupied by Boko Haram, while 350 churches have been destroyed. Finally three of the four Catholic schools have been closed. Mgr. Doeme expressed hope that the advance of the military marks “the beginning of the end of Boko Haram.” (L.M.)

[Featured image: img.rtve.es]

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