Fighting between Nigeria's military and the armed group Boko Haram has left at least 185 people dead in a fishing community in the nation's far northeast, Al Jazeera reported. The fighting in Baga, which began on Friday, lasted for hours, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad, according to the reports. By Sunday, when government officials finally felt safe enough to see the destruction, homes, businesses and vehicles were burned throughout the area. Authorities had found and buried at least 185 bodies as of Sunday afternoon, said Lawan Kole, a local government official in Baga. Officials could not offer a breakdown of civilian casualties versus those of soldiers and fighters. Many of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition in fires that razed whole sections of the town, residents said.
Brigadier General Austin Edokpaye said the Boko Haram fighters used heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the assault, which began after soldiers surrounded a mosque they believed housed members of the group.
Edokpaye said they used civilians as human shields during the fighting, implying that soldiers opened fire in neighbourhoods where they knew civilians lived.
However, local residents who spoke to a journalist who accompanied the state officials said soldiers purposefully set the fires during the attack.