By Lanre Ola
Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped more than 100 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the remote northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri, a security source and resident said on Thursday.
Although no one has claimed it yet, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 women in April from a secondary school in Chibok, only 24 km from this latest attack.
Its campaign for an Islamic state by Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful”, has become the gravest threat to Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.
Thousands of people have been killed and many hundreds abducted, raising questions about the ability of security forces to protect civilians, especially around the north Cameroon border where the militants are well established.
Maina Chibok, who did not witness the attack but is from Gumsuri and visited family there shortly afterwards, said the insurgents came in pick-up trucks and sprayed the town with bullets from AK-47s and machineguns.
“They gathered the people, shot dead over 30 people and took away more than 100 women and children in two open-top trucks,” Chibok said. Burials of many of the victims had already happened, he added.
News from remote parts of Nigeria that are cut off from mobile communications sometimes takes days to emerge.
A security source confirmed that more than 100 had been abducted and said 35 people had been killed, including the district head.
“They also burnt down a government medical centre, houses and shops,” Chibok said.
The abductions have gained in frequency this year. A man who says he is Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last month rejected comments by the government it was in talks to free the Chibok girls, saying he had in fact “married them off” to Boko Haram commanders, in a video posted on the Internet.
The military, which does not usually comment on security developments in the northeast, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Sunday’s incident.
A youth vigilante from the area called Aliyu Mamman told Reuters by telephone that there was no security presence to stop the militants, who stayed in the town all night before leaving.
Nigeria sentenced 54 soldiers to death by firing squad for mutiny while fighting against insurgents in the northeast on Wednesday.
Cameroon’s army killed 116 Boko Haram militants on Wednesday when they attacked a base in the Far North region of the country, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.