- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) - A court-martial Thursday began hearing charges against 97 soldiers, including 16 officers, accused of mutiny, assault, cowardice and refusing to fight in the country’s northeastern Islamic uprising.

Thursday’s mass trial comes two weeks after 12 soldiers were sentenced to death by firing squad for mutiny and attempted murder of their commanding officer.

Troops regularly have complained that they are outgunned by Boko Haram insurgents, that they are not paid in full and that they are abandoned on the battlefield without enough ammunition or food. Endemic corruption in Nigeria means millions of dollars goes missing from the budget to fight the 5-year-old Islamic uprising that has killed thousands.

Some soldiers have told The Associated Press that some of their colleagues collude with Boko Haram insurgents, giving them weapons and information.

The uprising grabbed international attention with the April kidnapping of more than 270 schoolgirls. Dozens escaped by the government and military failure to rescue 219 still missing has brought condemnation.

President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday praised soldiers for “inflicting devastating blows at the heart of terror” in the uprising centered in the northeast though suicide and car bombs have killed hundreds of people in northern cities and the central capital, Abuja

“Driven by patriotic zeal, they are turning the tide by their prowess and determination,” Jonathan said in a broadcast to the nation marking 54 years of independence from Britain.

The Ministry of Defense and witnesses have reported that recent punishing bombing raids and ground attacks have repelled the insurgents and stopped them just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the northeast city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Boko Haram extremists and headquarters of the military campaign.

Boko Haram fighters last month seized a string of towns where they have declared an Islamic caliphate, in the style of the Islamic State group.

Faul reported from Johannesburg.

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