YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — Villagers on Friday said Nigerian soldiers shot and killed a teacher and two middle-aged men who had been detained in northeast Nigeria, an account that comes amid accusations that many other people arrested by the military and vigilantes on suspicion of being Boko Haram fighters have disappeared and are feared dead.
Asked about the three killings, the military commander for the area, Brig. Gen. Victor Ezwugu, said the military had never detained the three men. He said all suspects are thoroughly investigated and treated according to the law.
Human rights groups accuse Nigeria's military of killing thousands of civilians in the fight against the Islamic extremists. The military has denied the allegations.
Villagers from Duhu told The Associated Press on Friday that women protested at a military base after soldiers on Wednesday arrested teacher Habu Bello and two other men, Idrisa Dele and Umaru Hammankadi. They said they later found the men's bodies dumped, with bullet wounds. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from soldiers.
Nigeria's military, meanwhile, reported saving 3,212 trapped civilians Thursday after heavy shootouts with Boko Haram insurgents in villages around Dikwa. Dikwa is about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of the Sambisa Forest, where the military has claimed to have contained the Islamic extremists.
One rescued victim told reporters they had been trapped for five months since Boko Haram took over their area. "Many of our young men were taken away, some of us were killed and our food stores looted," said the man, identified as a 56-year-old farmer and father of nine.
"We barely lived on the little that was available," he said, supporting reports that the military has cut Boko Haram's supply routes and the insurgents are short of food and ammunition.
Some 20,000 people have died in the 6-year-old Islamic uprising that has spread across Nigeria's borders.
Umar reported from Abuja, Nigeria