MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: Suspected Islamist militants dressed as soldiers rounded up and killed at least 42 villagers in Nigeria’s northeast, the center of an escalating insurgency increasingly targeting civilians, a police source said.
The assault in Bardari late Wednesday came a day after officials and witnesses said raiders killed scores of people in three other villages in the Borno region, where Boko Haram insurgents first launched their campaign to carve out an Islamist state.
The gunmen called the Bardari villagers together, then opened fire, the police source told Reuters.
“The people couldn’t identify them in time as terrorists,” the source said, adding that the militants then fled, crossing a river and setting fire to houses in the neighboring village of Kayamla, close to the regional capital Maiduguri.
In one of the attacks, on Tuesday, community leaders put the death toll as high as 500, although there was no independent verification of the claim because of poor communications and difficulties faced by the emergency services in accessing the area.
If confirmed, the raid on the villages of Goshe, Attagara, Agapalwa and Aganjara would be one of the deadliest in the Islamists’ five-year insurgency and top the more than 300 who were killed on May 5, when fighters laid siege to the nearby town of Gamboru Ngala.
Boko Haram has killed thousands since it started its revolt in Africa’s largest oil-producing country in 2009 and grabbed world headlines in April when it abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in another part of Borno state.
The kidnapping piled political pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan, who accepted help from the U.S. and other foreign powers to try to free the girls.