Suspected Islamist militants kill dozens of villagers in Nigeria


Suspected Islamist militants killed dozens of people on Sunday in an attack on three Nigerian villages, including one targeting worshippers at a church, a few kilometres from the scene of an abduction of more than 200 school girls.

Violence in Nigeria's northeast has been relentless in the past year and has gained in intensity since April, when more than 200 schoolgirls were snatched by Boko Haram rebels from the Chibok area. Efforts to free them have so far not succeeded.

The attackers made simultaneous strikes on three villages in Chibok in Borno state.

Boko Haram, which is fighting for an Islamic state in largely Muslim northern Nigeria, has killed thousands since launching an uprising on 2009 and many hundreds in the past three months.

Samuel Chibok, a survivor of the attack on Kautikiri village, said that around 20 men in a Toyota pick-up truck and motorcycles rolled into town. They sprayed it with bullets, focusing much of their fire power on panicked worshippers in a local church.

“Initially I thought they were military but when I came out, they were firing at people. I saw people fleeing and they burned our houses,” he said, adding that some people had died in the attack, including two of his relatives.

“Smoke was billowing from our town as I left.”

A local pro-government vigilante, who declined to be named, said residents had now recovered 15 bodies from the village. He added that many of the deaths occurred when worshippers were locked in a church.

Boko Haram often attacks institutions it sees as against its strict version of Sunni Islam, including churches, bars and non-religious schools that teach Western ideas like science.

Another attack on Kwada, left dozens of people dead, a security source operating in the area said, although the precise toll was unclear.

A senior advisor to Borno state governor Kassim Shettima, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak, said there had also been a third attack on Nguragida, his home village which he visited on Sunday. Nine bodies had been recovered from that attack, he said.

An explosion on Friday night in a brothel in the northeastern Nigerian city of Bauchi killed 11 people and wounded 28, police said on Saturday. This attack was also believed to be the work of Boko Haram.

A military operation in the northeast has so far failed to quell the rebellion and has triggered reprisal attacks that are increasingly targeting civilians, after they formed vigilante groups to try to help the government flush out the militants.

Boko Haram’s fighters are well armed and funded by a lucrative kidnapping operation.