MAIDUGURI (AFP) – Suspected Islamist insurgents dressed in military uniforms set up checkpoints in an attack in Nigeria’s northeast, killing an unclear number of people and burning dozens of buildings, residents and authorities said Wednesday.
The attack on Tuesday evening in the Benishiek community in Borno state saw suspected members of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram invade the area, attacking residents and motorists.
A Borno state government official said at least five local residents were killed in addition to an unclear number of motorists travelling through the area, while about 50 buildings housing shops and homes were burnt.
“Based on the information at hand, only five residents of the area were killed,” said Garba Ngamdu, an adviser to the state governor.
“A large chunk of the victims were motorists travelling on the highway, although we do not have a tentative figure yet.”
An army spokesman confirmed the attack and said a number of residents and tanker drivers had been killed, but declined to provide further details.
Residents recounted seeing bodies along the roadside and said the attackers were singling out those from Borno state.
The reason why was not immediately clear, but Boko Haram members have repeatedly carried out revenge attacks against residents over the emergence of vigilante groups that have formed to assist the military.
“The militants arrived in military vans and uniforms around 6:00 pm (1700 GMT),” Mallam Isa Manu, a motorist who escaped unhurt, told journalists in the Borno state capital Maiduguri.
“They set up checkpoints on the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway and ordered motorists to park and identify themselves.”
Benishiek was also the scene of clashes on September 8 between suspected Boko Haram gunmen and vigilantes.
Five Islamists and 13 vigilantes were reported to have been killed.
A military offensive launched in May aiming to end Boko Haram’s four-year insurgency appears to have pushed the extremists outside of major cities and into more remote areas, where attacks have been occurring.
Separately on Wednesday, the military claimed a strike on a Boko Haram camp in the northeast last week left about 150 Islamists and 16 soldiers dead, amid reports of dozens of troops killed.