Kano – Scores of people have been killed and many others forced to flee to the mountains following a renewed series of Boko Haram raids in northeast Nigeria, a lawmaker and a relief agency official said Tuesday.
The reported attacks by the Islamists targeted the Michika area in northeastern Adamawa state, where bodies reportedly littered the streets in several villages.
The bloodshed in northeast Nigeria has reached unprecedented levels in recent weeks, raising questions about security for general elections set for February 14.
The head of a European Union election monitoring mission, Santiago Fisas, said staff deployed to observe polling in Africa’s most populous country would not even attempt to travel to the northeast.
Separately, police in the northeastern town of Potiskum said they had arrested a bomb-maker linked to several recent Boko Haram suicide attacks — a welcome development for Nigeria’s security services which have struggled to protect civilians.
– ‘Beyond insurgency’ –
Adamu Kamale, who represents the Michika district in the Adamawa state government, also in the northeast, said Boko Haram gunmen had been going “door-to-door, killing people, including the old” for the past two weeks.
It was not immediately clear what sparked the latest alleged atrocities.
The insurgents, who are blamed for more than 13,000 deaths since 2009, have been in control of Michika for roughly five months.
Women and children had been abducted and countless homes destroyed, according to Kamale, who said roughly 70 percent of the population had fled their homes.
Many had escaped to Adamawa’s capital Yola, where hundreds of thousands have previously sought refuge, while others have been hiding in the mountain range that borders Cameroon.
“Dead bodies litter villages… The attackers slaughter people like animals,” he said.
In other areas under Boko Haram’s control, however, the attacks had abated and Kamale struggled to understand that latest unrest.
“To us, it has gone beyond insurgency. Something very strange is taking place in Michika,” he said.
Mohammed Kanar, northeast coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency, confirmed the raids in Michika, without discussing details of the violence.
“People are trapped in the mountains but they are inaccessible,” he told AFP. “The security situation is a challenge.”
– Election watch –
The spike in bloodshed comes less than three weeks before an election in which President Goodluck Jonathan faces a tough challenge from former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari.
The EU on Tuesday said it would deploy 90 observers across the country for the polls, excluding the northeast.
“The present situation (does not) allow us to go to the northeast,” Fisas, the head of the mission, told reporters.
Nigerian election officials have already conceded that voting will be impossible in much of the region, where Boko Haram controls large swatches of territory, especially in its historic stronghold of Borno state.
– Bomb-maker arrested –
Police said an explosives manufacturer, who was identified only as Ba’na and in his mid-thirties, was picked up after weeks of surveillance in Potiskum, the commercial capital of Yobe state.
The area has been hit by a wave of bombings in recent months, including a suicide attack on a secondary school in November 10 in which 58 people were killed.
On January 18, at least four people died in an attack on a bus station, while the previous week two women wearing suicide vests killed six people at a market and two died in a car bombing outside a police station.
Nine alleged accomplices were also arrested, according to one senior police officer, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Nigeria’s security services have boasted about several high profile Boko Haram-related arrests, but there is little evidence that the detentions have helped reduce the violence.