More than 50 people were killed in a Boko Haram ambush on an oil exploration team in northeast Nigeria earlier this week, multiple sources told AFP on Thursday, warning the death toll could rise.
Tuesday’s attack in the Magumeri area of Borno state on a convoy of specialists from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was the Islamist militants’ deadliest in months.
It underscored the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite government claims they were a spent force, and also the risks associated with the hunt for crude in the volatile Lake Chad basin.
Details of the ambush, which was initially thought to be a kidnapping attempt, have been slow to emerge and an exact death toll difficult to establish, as the military strictly controls access to rural Borno.
Telecommunications and other infrastructure have been severely damaged or destroyed in the conflict, which has left at least 20,000 dead and more than 2.6 million homeless since 2009.
The army said on Wednesday that 10 people were killed in the attack.
But one source involved in dealing with the aftermath told AFP on Thursday: “The death toll keeps mounting. Now we have more than 50… and more bodies are coming in.
“It’s clear that the attack wasn’t for abduction. They (Boko Haram) attacked just to kill.”
– Missing staff –
An aid agency worker in Magumeri, which is 50 kilometres (32 miles) northwest of Maiduguri, said 47 bodies were recovered from the bush as of Wednesday evening.
“Eleven of them were badly burned in the attack. They were burned alive in their vehicle, which was stuck in a trench,” he added.
“We buried them here because they couldn’t be taken to Maiduguri.
“This evening (Thursday), six more bodies were recovered, including one soldier, and many more could be recovered because search and rescue teams are all over the place.”
A medical source at the Nigerian Army 7th Division headquarters at Maimalari barracks in Maiduguri said: “So far we have 18 dead soldiers. Ten were brought yesterday and eight more today.”
At the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), a medical worker said: “We have 19 bodies at the moment of civilians.
“Fifteen of them were vigilantes (civilian militia) and four were staff from the university. They have been taken for burial.”
The head of the academic staff union at the University of Maiduguri, Dani Mamman, confirmed they had received four bodies and said two of them were academics.
“We got the impression our staff on the team were rescued because that was what the military spokesman said yesterday,” he added.
“But we were shocked when we were given four dead bodies. This means it wasn’t a rescue.
“We still have other staff that are yet to be accounted for.”
Source: ( AFP )