The soldiers were charged by the military tribunal for mutiny and sentenced to be executed by the firing squad in Abuja
The soldiers were charged by the military tribunal for mutiny and sentenced to be executed by the firing squad in AbujaReuters

A Nigerian military court has sentenced 54 of its soldiers to death by firing squad after they refused to fight Boko Haram militants.

The soldiers, who were charged with mutiny, were accused of refusing to help re-capture three towns that were seized by Boko Haram in August.

A lawyer for the soldiers told BBC that the 54 soldiers would face a firing squad; five others have been acquitted. Military officials were not available for a comment.

The court martial of the soldiers that began on 15 October was largely carried out behind closed doors and journalists were not allowed to come near the court. 

Defence lawyer Femi Falana said the soldiers were all accused of "conspiring to commit mutiny against the authorities of 7 Division, Nigerian Army",  a charge that has been denied by the accused soldiers.

On several occasions,  Nigerian soldiers have complained that they being outgunned by Boko Haram militants but the country's defence authorities have always insisted that the troops are well-equipped.

Boko Haram militants have been active since 2009 and carrying out terrorist activities in the country in their attempt to create an Islamic state in north-eastern Nigeria.

More than 2,000 people have died in attacks blamed on Boko Haram so far this year and thousands more have been displaced by the fighting.

Back in September, in a similar case, 12 Nigerian soldiers were sentenced to death for mutiny and the attempted murder of a commanding officer in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri.

An AFP report noted that the men, who were sentenced to death on Wednesday were part of the special forces division. The troops were ordered in August to re-capture three lost towns in restive Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.

Boko Haram, blamed for more than 13,000 deaths since 2009, is believed to control more than two dozen towns and villages in the north-east.

While the military has claimed a series of victories in recent weeks, large swathes of territory still remain in rebel hands.

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