KANO (AFP) – Traders burned alive in their stalls, whole families murdered as their homes were set alight: shocked survivors told Wednesday of Boko Haram’s latest atrocity as they counted their dead in north Nigeria.
Islamist gunmen razed scores of buildings as they stormed the town of Gamboru Ngala, on the Cameroon border, on Monday, firing on fleeing civilians and leaving hundreds dead according to witnesses.
Survivors said the extremists overran the town in armoured trucks and on motorcycles, making it too dangerous for locals to return immediately.
Details of the ruthless attack emerged bit by bit as they dared venture home — to a town “littered” with dead bodies, Musa Abba, a witness, told AFP by telephone.
Area Senator Ahmed Zanna put the death toll at 300, citing information provided by locals, in an account supported by numerous residents.
“We have been collecting bodies from all over the town, on the streets and in burnt homes,” Abba said.
“Nine members of a family were burnt alive in their home.”
Another resident, Babagana Goni, said he counted 30 bodies on the streets before returning home, unable to withstand the sight.
“Some bodies are burnt beyond recognition,” he said. “Some of the bodies were shot while others had their throats slit, which made me sick.
“I couldn’t continue the count.”
Gamboru Ngala has been attacked repeatedly in the past, but Abba said this was the worst Boko Haram attack it had seen.
Senator Zanna said the town had been left unguarded because soldiers based there had been redeployed in an effort to rescue more than 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14.
The shocking mass abduction has sparked global outrage, and offers from the United States, Britain, France and China to help Nigeria recover the children, and tackle the spiralling security threat posed by Boko Haram.
- ‘Still recovering bodies’ -
Villagers have been conducting funerals for the dead since Tuesday, Goni said, and only gradually realised the scale of the killings as more and more bodies emerged.
“The town has buried more than 150 people and rescue teams are still recovering more bodies, particularly in the market.”
“Many traders were burnt alive in their shops where they hid when sounds of gunfire and explosions broke out in the town.”
He said the dead included traders from neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, whose relatives had since recovered their bodies for burial at home.
Senator Zanna said the town’s economic and business centres had been destroyed, with its market — a hub for traders from all over the region — completely burned.
Monday’s savage attack prompted Cameroon’s military to reinforce security along the Nigerian border, a medical source told AFP from the border town of Fotokol, requesting anonymity.
“The toll is very heavy. We believe there are more than 200 dead,” the source said, adding that some 2,000 Nigerians, including soldiers had fled to Cameroon, and that some 30 bodies had been transported to the town.
“People had their throats slit, others were shot,” said the source. “Some of the bodies were charred. It was horrific.”