MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, (Reuters) – Suspected Islamist militants killed dozens of people yesterday in an attack on three Nigerian villages, including one targeting worshippers at a church, a few kilometres (three miles) from Chibok, the scene of an abduction of more than 200 school girls.
Violence in Nigeria’s northeast has been relentless in the past year and has gained in intensity since April, when more than 200 schoolgirls were snatched by Boko Haram rebels from Chibok. Efforts to free them, which have attracted Western support, have so far not succeeded.
In a separate assault on Friday evening insurgents killed seven soldiers in the village of Goniri, in Yobe state, a security source and witnesses said.
The attackers yesterday made simultaneous strikes on three villages in the Chibok community, in Borno state.
Boko Haram, which is fighting for an Islamic state in largely Muslim northern Nigeria, has killed thousands since launching an uprising on 2009, and many hundreds in the past three months.
It is by far the biggest security threat to Africa’s largest economy and top oil producer, and has overshadowed government efforts to project an image of Nigeria to foreign investors as a prospective economic giant.
Samuel Chibok, a survivor of the attack on Kautikiri village, about five km from where the girls were snatched, said that around 20 men in a Toyota pick-up truck and motorcycles rolled into town. They sprayed it with bullets, focusing much of their fire power on panicked worshippers in a local church.
“Initially I thought they were military but when I came out, they were firing at people. I saw people fleeing and they burned our houses,” he said, adding that some people had died in the attack, including two of his relatives.