Suspected Boko Haram gunmen dressed in military uniform yesterday killed 19 people near the Nigerian border with Cameroon in the restive northeast where the Islamists have carried out deadly attacks, residents and a survivor said.
The motorcycle-riding AK-47 wielding gunmen blocked the highway near the town of Logumani, 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border, shooting and hacking to death 19 motorists and burning three trucks, they said.
“We have recovered 19 dead bodies from the scene of the attack by Boko Haram gunmen,” Musa Abur, leader of a civilian vigilante group in the area told AFP.
“Five of the victims, who included two truck drivers and their assistants, were shot dead while the rest were slaughtered,” he said. He said the gunmen had attacked the border town of Gamboru Ngala near Logumani late Friday but were repelled by soldiers and local vigilantes.
A passenger, who survived the attack, gave a similar account. “We were asked to get out of our vehicles and lie face down by nine men dressed as soldiers who blocked the road around 5:00 am,” the man who gave his name as Buba told AFP.
“They shot dead five people and went about slaughtering 14 others before someone called them on the phone that soldiers were heading their way,” he said.
“They abandoned the rest of us and sped into the bush on their motorcycles,” added Buba, who was shot in the leg.
He said the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram. “We knew they were Boko Haram from their appearance. Soldiers don’t wear beards but some of the gunmen were bearded,” he said.
“Everyone in this area knows Boko Haram is on the prowl, raiding villages and attacking vehicles. It has become a common occurrence.”
Meanwhile, the Army authorities have described the casualty figures as grossly exaggerated, saying only four civilians were killed in the attack while an unspecified number of the Boko Haram gunmen were also killed in a gunfight with Special Forces.
The Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru, who made this known, said “The casualty is exaggerated. A vehicle was conveying foodstuffs, and it was stopped by the Boko Haram members between Dikwa and Gamboru Ngala; they killed four people in the vehicle.
“The attack occurred at Dikwa and Gamboru Ngala on Sunday. The incident was reported at our operational base and Special Forces engaged them killing some of the fleeing insurgents.
“I can’t give you the exact number of those killed on the side of the insurgent because they (Special Forces) are still after them but I can confirm that four civilians were killed.”