"I am deeply concerned by reports of ongoing large-scale abuses in north-eastern Nigeria. My Office continues to gather information alleging killings of large numbers of civilians, the use of girls and boys to participate in hostilities, and the massive displacement of communities by the armed group commonly referred to as Boko Haram," the statement by the ICC prosecutor reads.
According to Bensouda, "the most recent attack [ by the Boko Haram group] on the city of Baga and adjacent villages in early January, as well as the reported use of women and children as suicide bombers in attacks on markets in Maiduguri and Potiskum, on 11 and 12 January, mark a further disturbing escalation in the appalling levels of violence."
Amnesty International estimated that some 2,000 people may have been killed by Boko Haram in the two towns between January 3-7, after the group engaged in the indiscriminate killing of civilians including women and children, forcibly displacing thousands and burning property. The Nigerian government, however, estimated the death toll to be only 150.
Noting that Nigeria is a member of the ICC, Bensouda in her statement stressed that "crimes committed by members of any of the parties to the armed conflict in Nigeria must be thoroughly and impartially investigated and prosecuted."
The Boko Haram militant group was formed in 2002 with the intention of overthrowing the Nigerian government and establishing an Islamic state with sharia law. Since 2009 the group has expanded its operations across the northeastern part of the country, killing more than 5,000 people, and carrying out suicide attacks and abductions.