Video Surfaces of Execution of Aid Workers and Others Abducted in Nigeria

By Ruth Maclean

Five men — three aid workers, a government employee and a security worker — were abducted in June. A group aligned with the Islamic State is believed to be behind the killings.

Relatives of one of the aid workers abducted last month gathered on Thursday in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Relatives of one of the aid workers abducted last month gathered on Thursday in Maiduguri, Nigeria.Credit...Audu Marte/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

DAKAR, Senegal — A Nigerian terrorist group has executed five men — three of them aid workers — who disappeared while providing assistance in the northeastern state of Borno last month. A video surfaced on Wednesday showing the men kneeling and blindfolded. They were then shot.

The West African country of Nigeria has endured more than 10 years of abductions, killings and other abuses by armed Islamist groups, but regional governments have recently cracked down on insurgents, claiming to have killed thousands.

A group allied with the Islamic State, Islamic State West Africa Province, or I.S.W.A.P., is thought to be behind the executions of the five men, all Nigerians.

The men had been traveling between Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, the Nigerian region hardest hit by terrorist attacks, and the town of Monguno when they were kidnapped. Local news outlets reported that they were aid workers with Action Against Hunger and the International Rescue Committee. One worked for Nigeria’s State Emergency Management Agency.

Terrorist groups in northeastern Nigeria are often known by the catchall name Boko Haram, the nickname of the original group that took up arms in 2009, of which I.S.W.A.P. is a splinter group. Unlike the original Boko Haram, I.S.W.A.P. at first targeted mostly Christians, people affiliated with the state, and employees of international aid organizations. More recently, it has begun killing other Muslims too, some analysts have said. The group frequently abducts and executes aid workers after attempting to elicit ransoms.

Over the past decade, northeastern Nigeria has been destabilized by armed men preaching radicalism who gained traction by airing grievances against the state. They pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015, before splintering into several groups. Tens of thousands of civilians have since been killed, raped, abducted and tortured.

President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to crush the terrorists and return peace to the northeast, but attacks have continued, and national forces have been accused of abuses that perpetuate the crisis.

The insurgency was subdued somewhat in Mr. Buhari’s first term, analysts say, but has recently been bouncing back.

The day before the execution video surfaced, Nigerian lawmakers, concerned about soldiers leaving the army in large numbers, asked the country’s security chiefs to step down, according to local media.

The aid workers killed were Ishaku Yakubu, an employee of Action Against Hunger, Abdulrahman Dungus, who worked for an affiliate of France’s Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, and Luka Filibus, a child protection officer with the aid group International Rescue Committee. Joseph Prince, a security worker, and Abdulrahman Bulama, a displaced persons’ camp coordinator working for the Nigerian state, were also shot.

In a video released in June, Mr. Filibus appealed to his employer to save him. He was a former displaced person himself.

“Luka and his family were forced to flee their home, and he was still compelled to alleviate the suffering of children,” the aid group said in a statement after the execution video came out. “He dedicated his life to protecting children and to help lessen their trauma in the face of crisis. His colleagues in Nigeria remember him always with a smile on his face.”

Ismail Alfa contributed reporting from Maiduguri, Nigeria.