Boko Haram militants killed 32 people and kidnapped scores of others, including women and children, in a brutal attack on a village in the northeast, officials and a witness said Thursday.
In neighbouring Cameroon, the Islamic extremists launched a raid on army base in the border town of Amchide, but were repelled in a fierce gun battle with troops that left 116 insurgents dead, according to Cameroon’s defence ministry.
Separately, a Nigerian court martial late Wednesday sentenced 54 soldiers to death for mutiny after they refused to deploy for an operation against Boko Haram, blaming a lack of weapons and other equipment.
The court martial underscored the struggles Nigeria’s military has faced in containing the five-year Islamist uprising. Civilians complain that they are left defenceless by troops who are often absent when the militants attack.
The insurgents, fighting to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, have seized large swathes of territory in the northeast, while cross-border violence has spread in recent months, forcing more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes.
A convoy of heavily armed Boko Haram gunmen stormed Gumsuri in Borno state on Sunday, throwing petrol bombs into buildings and leaving much of the village destroyed, two local officials and a witness said.
– ‘Wives and daughters taken’ –
Both officials with the municipal government, who requested anonymity, put the death toll at 32.
They said local people were still counting the number of those abducted by the jihadists and warned that the figure could pass 100.
Details of the attack took four days to emerge from the isolated village, roughly 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Borno’s capital Maiduguri, because the mobile phone network has largely collapsed and many of the roads are impassable.
“After killing our youths, the insurgents have taken away our wives and daughters,” said Mukhtar Buba, who fled Gumsuri to Maiduguri.
Gumsuri is located on the road that leads to Chibok, where Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a school in April.
One of the local officials said the village had previously been protected against Boko Haram by a strong vigilante force, but that they were overpowered in Sunday’s attack.
“For the past one year, the insurgents have made several attempts to attack Gumsuri but were resisted by the gallant youths of the village,” he told AFP.
“It is sad that on Sunday, the village was subdued,” he added.
– Cross-border violence –
The military and police were not immediately available for comment.
Boko Haram has increasingly used kidnappings to boost its supply of child fighters, porters and young women who have reportedly been used as sex slaves.
Borno state is the epicentre of the Boko Haram conflict but the militants have tried to spread their uprising and want to introduce hardline Islamist rule in neighbouring Cameroon.
The defence ministry in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde said Wednesday’s raid in Amchide was carried out by several hundred Islamists who ambushed a column of military vehicles with explosives and simultaneously attacked the army base.
Cameroonian troops retaliated instantly, the ministry said, killing 116 insurgents while one soldier has been confirmed dead and another was missing.
According to the army, the Boko Haram fighters destroyed a pick-up and a troop truck, as well as seizing another military truck intact.
– Mutineers convicted –
The Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death were part of a special forces group that was tasked with reclaiming territory lost to Boko Haram in August.
Their court martial was conducted behind closed doors and the military did not allow journalists to cover the decision, but defence lawyer Femi Falana confirmed the sentence given to 54 soldiers. He said five of the accused were acquitted.
Frontline troops have consistently complained that they lack the weapons and other supplies needed to face Boko Haram in insurgent strongholds.
The Islamists are known to have tanks, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other heavy weaponry, while government troops have reported lacking ammunition for basic assault rifles.
Wives of soldiers have staged protests outside a military base, trying to stop their husbands from heading to conflict areas without proper hardware, while some troops have set up protest camps outside Maiduguri to demand better equipment.
Nigeria is facing huge pressure to contain the violence before general elections due on February 14, but so far there have been few signs of progress, raising fears that the vote will be cancelled across the northeast.