Suspected insurgents killed 29 people in Nigeria’s embattled northeast, an official said Monday, the latest carnage in a surge of violence that has left more than 100 dead this month alone.
The latest attack on Sunday hit the town of Mafa in Boko Haram’s historic stronghold of Borno state, which is witnessing one of the deadliest episodes of the group’s nearly five-year-old rebellion.
A security source in neighbouring Cameroon meanwhile said Boko Haram gunmen crossed the border on Sunday and clashed with Cameroonian soldiers, leaving seven dead.
In Mafa, the militants had sent fliers to the town earlier in the week to warn of an impending attack, a tactic used by the extremists elsewhere in the region, said Borno senator Ahmed Zanna.
Following the threat, some people fled, schools were closed and military reinforcements were deployed to the town roughly 45 kilometres northeast of Borno’s capital Maiduguri.
But when the attack began, Zana claimed that “the soldiers fled because they could not match the firepower and numerical strength of the gunmen.”
“Twenty-nine people have been buried from the attack by Boko Haram,” he told AFP.
Borno’s police commissioner Lawal Tanko confirmed the latest unrest and said units were headed to Mafa to assess the damage.
Also on Sunday, Cameroonian soldiers tracked down a group of Boko Haram fighters who had crossed the border. Six insurgents and one soldier were killed.
“Around 30 heavily armed Boko Haram soldiers crept discreetly into Cameroon. A villager saw them and raised the alarm,” said Mey Aly, from a local NGO.
Such incursions from retreating Boko Haram fighters are frequent and the Nigerian government had called last week for enhanced security cooperation with Cameroon.
Information Minister Labaran Maku said: “They strike. When we pursue them, they retreat into Cameroon.”
Boko Haram’s uprising, aimed at creating a strict religious state in northern Nigeria, has killed thousands since 2009.
Statistics have typically been hard to verify, as much of the violence has occurred in remote regions, often with poor phone access.
More than 330 people have been killed already this year – a nearly unprecedented two-month rate for the four-and-half-year conflict.