A new investigate report published by Reuters on Monday, has detailed how top army commanders allegedly ordered soldiers to “delete” children born to insurgents.
The report says the directive was issued “because the children were assumed to be collaborating with militants in Boko Haram or its Islamic State offshoot, or to have inherited the tainted blood of insurgent fathers”.
The international news agency said more than 40 soldiers and civilians interviewed for the investigation said they witnessed officers of the Nigerian military “kill children or saw children’s corpses after a military operation”.
“Intentional killings of children have occurred with a blurring frequency across the region during the war, according to witnesses interviewed by Reuters,” the investigation reads in part.
“More than 40 sources said they saw the Nigerian military target and kill children or saw the dead bodies of children after a military operation.
“These sources included both parents and other civilian witnesses, as well as soldiers who said they participated in dozens of military operations in which children were slaughtered. Together, their estimates added up to thousands of children killed.”
Reuters said it could not independently verify the estimate that thousands of children were killed during military operations against insurgency.
But the news agency said six specific incidents investigated by reporters indicated that at least 60 children were killed in those incidents.
In the investigation, Yagana Bukar, a mother of twins, narrated how soldiers “smothered” her four-month-old twin boys after she and a group of other women and children escaped from Boko Haram fighters.
“The soldiers said they killed those children because they are children of Boko Haram — they are not human beings,” Bukar said.
“They threatened me that if I wasn’t careful and didn’t keep quiet, they would kill me as well.”
In another witness’ testimony, a soldier reportedly said he enjoys killing children who were suspected to be fathered by insurgents due to the belief that they may grow up to become insurgents.
“Soldiers often cited as a reason for killing children the belief that if their fathers were insurgents, then they would grow up to be the same,” the report reads.
“The killing was also a way for some officers to avenge heavy losses in fighting with Islamist insurgents, or for soldiers to vent their anger over the deaths of their comrades.
“Other soldiers said they had adopted a kill-or-be-killed attitude toward children because insurgents used them as fighters, informants and suicide bombers.”
On December 7, an investigation published by Reuters accused the Nigerian Army of carrying out illegal abortions on victims of insurgency in the north-east.
However, the Defence Headquarters had said the Nigerian Army has never forced rescued women and girls to abort pregnancies.