Boko Haram jihadists killed at least five loggers in northeast Nigeria, in the latest attacks against civilians in the violence-hit region, local civilian militia told AFP on Thursday.
The attack happened on Tuesday in Ajeri village, near the town of Dikwa, some 90 kilometres (55 miles) east of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, said Ibrahim Liman, from the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF).
“They came across nine Boko Haram gunmen in twos on three motorcycles who opened fire, killing five of the loggers,” Liman said.
Four others were injured in the attack.
Soldiers were attracted by the sound of gunfire but the attackers fled before troops arrived on the scene, a second CJTF leader, Babakura Kolo, added.
“The soldiers evacuated the five dead and the injured back to Dikwa along with 18 others who survived the attack,” he said.
News of the attack was slow to emerge, as nearly nine years of fighting has destroyed telecoms infrastructure in the remote region while the military strictly controls access to rural Borno.
Boko Haram seized Dikwa in August 2014, forcing residents to flee to Maiduguri. Chadian troops retook it the following March, allowing locals to return, but there have been sporadic attacks in the area since then.
Loggers have been increasingly targeted in Borno state. Boko Haram suspects them of spying and passing information to the military and the CJTF, which assists troops with security.
The loggers are among the more than 2.6 million made homeless by the conflict and forced to live in camps for the displaced or with distant family or friends.
Felling trees to sell as firewood has become one way of earning a living, with most of the displaced reliant on food handouts from aid agencies.
– Suicide bombings –
Nigeria’s military and government maintain that Boko Haram is a spent force but there has been little let up in violence.
The BBC said in data published last week that the group killed at least 967 people in 150 attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger in 2017, up on 2016 when 910 deaths were reported in 127 attacks.
Overall, the insurgency is said to have killed at least 20,000.
On Wednesday evening, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at Mandarari village, near the Borno town of Konduga, 36 kilometres southeast of Maiduguri.
The blasts happened shortly after another bomber killed four and injured 44 at a displaced persons’ camp in Dalori, 22 kilometres away on the same road to Maiduguri.
A fourth bomber also blew herself up outside the camp.
The head of the Borno state emergency management agency, Ahmed Satomi, said both attacks were “clearly the work of Boko Haram”.
“They are trying to hit back as a result of the pressure the military has exerted on them in the current military operations against them in Sambisa forest,” he added.
Nigeria’s military announced in late 2016 that it had cleared the jihadists’ Sambisa Forest stronghold but they are said to have since returned.