Suspected members of the terrorist group Boko Haram have killed at least 69 people in Nigeria’s northeast, residents said Wednesday.
Tuesday’s attack in Foduma Kolomaiya village in the Gubio area of Borno state likely was in retaliation for resistance against an assault weeks ago, residents said.
“They came on motorcycles and vehicles and killed people at will in an attack that lasted more than two hours,” said Rabiu Isa, a member of a local defense force. “In all we counted 69 corpses but the death toll may be higher because some people are still missing.”
Many others were wounded.
A leader of the local defense group, Malam Bunu, said the fighters returned Wednesday morning to kill a herdsman who had escaped the massacre.
“Then set the entire village ablaze before they left,” Bunu said. “As I am talking to you now, the village is still smoking.”
Gubio lies nearly 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital. Residents are mostly herders who have resisted Boko Haram hostilities over the years.
After the initial attack nearly 1,200 cattle were stolen, Bunu said. An air force fighter jet fired shots at the fleeing fighters, he said.
Tuesday’s attack was likely in retaliation for the death of two Boko Haram members “whom the villagers managed to kill when the insurgents attempted to attack them about two months ago,” Bunu said.
Boko Haram members often force villagers to pay illegal taxes by taking their livestock, he said. But over time, villagers began to resist the extortion.
Boko Haram and a breakaway faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province, are both active in the region. Boko Haram’s more than decade-long insurgency has left thousands dead and displaced tens of thousands.
Insurgents recently have been mounting roadblocks, screening travelers and kidnapping people in northern Borno state, said the president of the region’s civil society organizations, Ahmed Shehu.
Last week, five people were kidnapped including a regional chairman for the Borno State Regional Emergency Services, he said. On Sunday, civil servants and teachers were seized but later released.
“There is urgent need for the protection of vulnerable civilians and local aid workers,” Shehu said.