Lt. Col. Sagir Musa
Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
Reuters tuesday withdrew a story it published on Sunday, where it reported about a video showing Nigerian troops shooting unarmed captives in Maiduguri, Borno State.
The news agency said it was withdrawing the story because of questions raised about its date and location.
Reuters withdrawal followed a swift response yesterday by the Joint Task Force (JTF), which denied the authenticity of the video, recalling that it had on several occasions debunked similar accusations in the past and made it clear that there was no established case of extra-judicial killings, arrest or detention by the JTF in Maiduguri.
The agency had alleged that it was in possession of a video showing troops shooting unarmed members of the sect.
However, JTF had insisted that the film, which Reuters claimed as evidence was stage managed.
The task force added that the allegation was another classic propaganda of the fundamentalists.
A statement by its spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, had warned the media against being drawn into a propaganda war but instead make objectivity their watchword.
Musa said there were severally cases of daylight killings of Nigerians and foreigners alike on the streets of Maiduguri and elsewhere by the terrorist group, which should have been criticised by both the Nigerian and international media but treated lightly.
He said it was surprising that a film masterfully recorded by the Boko Haram sect to paint the efforts of the task force in bad light was given wide reportage.
“We are professionally guided by a mandate and rules of engagement in the conduct of our operations. In our code of conduct and standing instructions, no JTF personnel is allowed to carry video or still camera and cell phones while on operations,” Musa claimed.
“It is therefore curious to note that the purported film referred to, circulated and reported by Reuter’s news agency and lifted by some national newspapers is allegedly filmed by a JTF soldier on operation.
“The task force is worried that the same picture is again being used by Reuters News Agency that reported the picture was captured two weeks ago. Additionally, the bodies deposited in the pictures cannot be substantiated to be Boko Haram or those of innocent civilians,” Musa claimed.
Musa in the statement said: “The attention of the JTF Operation Restore Order has been drawn to some publications in some national dailies particularly in the Punch newspaper of Monday, November 12, 2012 Captioned “Soldier Filmed Colleagues Killing Captives in Maiduguri” and wishes to state that the JTF has severally debunked similar accusations in the past and has made it absolutely clear that there is no established case of extra-judicial killings, arrest or detention by the JTF in Maiduguri.
He further said: “This film is stage managed and the allegation is baseless, terrorist-oriented, spurious and bunkum. I watched the film released, printed and scrutinised the three pictures used as the basis for the allegations and discovered that picture one was used as the cover page of the Amnesty International report that was released on November 8, 2012.
“Picture two had earlier been used to maliciously tarnish the image of a task force which operated in the middle belt sometimes in 2009. It is curious to notice that the same picture is still been used in November 2012 against the JTF. It is worthy of note that the reporter alleged that a JTF soldier recorded the event and gave them the film.
“This is found to be completely false as the person who did the so called recording cannot be a soldier as purported as a civilian with a camera can be obviously seen in the background of the picture. This picture has no bearing with the JTF operations and supposed secrecy or else, why should a civilian be in the background taken pictures and yet Reuters claimed the film and pictures were secretly released by a soldier,” Musa added.
He said: “As a professional and disciplined organization, we are mindful of the public concerns about our operations and will certainly investigate allegations and where necessary make our findings public. The Task Force wishes to once again remind the public including the media that it does not condone or encourage indiscipline and anyone found culpable will always be appropriately sanctioned.”