OSOGBO, Nigeria – Dozens of civilians have been killed in northeastern Nigeria by Islamic extremist rebels targeting farmers and local militia groups, local authorities told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Boko Haram, Nigeria’s indigenous jihadist insurgency, launched a revolt in 2009 to fight against Western education and establish Islamic Sharia law in Nigeria. Extreme violence has killed at least 35,000 people and displaced 2.1 million in Nigeria, according to UN agencies.
In Sunday’s attack, 43 people, most of them members of the local self-defense militia, were ambushed on their way to Mudu, near the northern border with Cameroon, Idris said. The local government has not yet confirmed the exact number of casualties, but the number is probably higher than the 22 initially reported by the military, he said.
“I’m talking to you now, even their bodies are still there,” he told the AP. “The chairman is contacting the army to find the bodies in the bushes.”
Among those killed in the latest attack by rebels were some farmers who were working in their fields, said Adam Rappa, another government official in the council area. Extremists “target not just farmers,” he said.
“Their motive was to kill everyone,” Rappa said, referring to insurgents who often attack communities arriving in large numbers on motorcycles in remote areas.
Idris said the affected area was a “no-go area.” Many parts of Kala / Balz are inaccessible because they are often attacked by extremists because it is close to the Cameroonian border – an escape route for militants.
The local militia, known as the Civilian Joint Task Force, has backed military operations in northeastern Nigeria as the Nigerian military expands to respond to other pockets of the security crisis, as well as the fight against extremist rebels.
Members of the local militia killed on Sunday “gathered around the village to check if Boko Haram had carried out a surprise attack,” Idris told the Kala / Balge administrative office. “This time, they went alone without the army.”
Nigerian security forces have repeatedly demanded victory in the war against Boko Haram and its affiliate Islamic State in the West African province. But spontaneous attacks still target remote communities where there is little security presence.
Most of the time when they attack remote communities, the militants may try to bring something from the city – maybe they are hungry and want something to eat – or they want to occupy some community, “said Rappa, a local official.