KANO, NIGERIA (AFP) – Extremists in northeast Nigeria have since Friday killed 27 people in four separate attacks, security sources and residents told AFP on Sunday.
The Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), who split from rival Boko Haram extremists in 2016, has escalated attacks in recent weeks, despite ongoing military operations.
Late on Saturday, ISWAP killed 24 civilians in three villages in Borno state, an anti-extremist militia leader and a resident told AFP. They said the civilians were targetted for helping troops fighting the militants. Military spokespeople and local officials have not yet confirmed the attacks and did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment.
The villages are on the fringes of Sambisa forest, a major extremist hideout. Fighters drove into Sabongarin Kimba, Mandara-Girau and Ngama villages in Biu district. “The terrorists killed 24 people in the three villages last night,” anti-extremist militia leader Mustapha Karimbe said. “They moved from village to village, selecting their targets and slaughtering them,” said Karimbe, adding that nine residents were killed in Sabongarin Kimba, seven in Mandara-Girau and eight in Ngama.
He said soldiers had enlisted the help of villagers to clear shrubs along the highway linking the villages, which the militants use as cover for ambushes. The attacks were “punishment for the residents’ aiding soldiers”, he added.
The extremists had sent a warning to villagers not to clear the foliage threatening “grave consequences”, said another militia member, Umar Ari, giving the same death toll.
Resident of nearby Biu town, Ahmad Babagana said the militants stormed Sabongarin Kimba around 2000 GMT before proceeding to Ngama and Mandara-Girau.
Late on Friday, ISWAP staged another attack in Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in 2014, sparking international outcry.
The 12-year-old conflict has killed at least 40,000 people from fighting alone and displaced more than two million from their homes.
The military says it has killed 180 fighters and arrested 130 others suspected of terrorism in the northeast since the end of January alone.