World Bulletin/News Desk
Nigeria has denied reports about burying slain soldiers in mass graves in the restive northeastern region, which has been ravaged by a five-year insurgency by Boko Haram.
"There are insinuations that we bury people in mass graves which are not true," Nigeria's chief of defense staff Alex Badeh told reporters in Abuja on Tuesday.
"I know why that question came. But it is not true," he said.
Nigerian army chief Kenneth Minimah also denied the allegations, insisting that every soldier fallen on the battlefield was given "very befitting burial."
"Soldiers who got killed in battle were given befitting burial in the battle front or in military commentaries nearest to the field of operations in line with the policy of the Nigerian Army," he said.
"The military has also ensured that the families of fallen soldiers especially their next-of-kin were invited to attend such burials. So the allegations of mass burial are clearly not correct."
The denial came after Nigerian defense minister General Aliyu Gusau addressed the media on the country's annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day.
The event is commemorated on February 15, a date that coincides with the country's first ever military coup by some young officers led by late Major General Kaduna Nzeogu in 1966. That coup had prepared the floor for Nigeria's 30-month civil war in 1967.
The Armed Forces Remembrance Day – usually to appreciate soldiers fallen or incapacitated on the battlefield – is marked worldwide on November 11, the date World War I ended in 1918.
"The Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration… is a special one because it coincides with Nigeria’s greatest security challenges in recent times," Gusau said.
"It is therefore appropriate to specially appreciate the commitment of our personnel that are paying the supreme price in confronting our security challenges so that we can live in peace," he said.
"The contribution of the officers and men of the Armed Forces towards the return of peace to troubled spots in our country cannot be overemphasized. The nation remains eternally grateful to these gallant Nigerians," he added.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to launch the Armed Forces Emblem and Appeal Fund on November 4.
Hundreds of soldiers are believed to have been killed as Nigeria battles a five-year old insurgency in its northeastern region, waged by Boko Haram militants.
The sect, which was peaceful until the death of its leader Mohammed Yusuf in police custody, has become increasingly violent. More than 13,000 are believed to have been killed since 2009.
Boko Haram has been designated a terrorist organization by Nigeria, Turkey and the United States.
Last month, the Nigerian military claimed to have killed a man it insisted had been masquerading as dead Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau - a claim the militants have denied.
Both claims cannot be verified independently owing to the limitations on media coverage of the crisis.
Last Mod: 14 Ekim 2014, 22:57