Boko Haram jihadists have killed nine people in two separate attacks in northeast Nigeria, militia members and local residents said on Tuesday, underlining the persistent threat to civilians.
The first attack happened at about 11:00 on Monday when six people collecting firewood were shot dead in Jinene village, near the border town of Ngala, in Borno state.
The second occurred in Pallam village, in the Madagali area of neighbouring Adamawa state, at about 23:30, and saw the militants seize food, before burning several shops and homes.
Nigeria’s military and government maintain the insurgents are a spent force, after nearly nine years of violence that has killed at least 20 000 people and forced more than 2.6 million others from their homes.
But hit-and-run raids and suicide bomb attacks, including in and around camps for the displaced, are a constant menace, exacerbating already precarious living conditions in the impoverished remote region.
Loggers, many of whom live in the camps and are forced to collect wood in the unprotected bush to to sell, have been particularly vulnerable. Scores have been killed in recent months.
Umar Kachalla, a civilian militia leader from the town of Gamboru, near Ngala, said the latest attack was carried out by jihadists who arrived on motorcycles.
“Six people were killed by the gunmen who also abducted five girls who joined the loggers to collect firewood from the Jinene woods,” he told AFP.
The loggers were among 80 000 internally displaced people (IDPs) sheltering in a camp at Ngala, 3km away.
“Some of the loggers managed to escape and made it back to the camp and informed the soldiers,” he added.
The attackers made off with some 500 goats after they shot and injured two shepherds in a field near the displaced camp. The goats belonged to some of the IDPs.
Ngala resident Abubakar Yusuf, who gave similar account, said residents were afraid to leave the town for fear of Boko Haram attacks.
“They are out in the bush, moving on motorcycles and killing anyone they come across,” he said.
In August 2014, Boko Haram seized Ngala and Gamboru. Nigerian troops retook both towns in September 2015 with the help of Chadian forces after months of fighting.
But despite the recapture, Boko Haram fighters continue to launch sporadic raids, ambushing troops and vehicles, as well as attacking and abducting farmers.
At least 31 loggers have not been seen since January 2 and are believed to have been abducted near Gamboru.
They had left the town to fetch firewood in a Boko Haram hotspot 15 kilometres away, where 10 other loggers had been killed two weeks earlier.
In September last year Boko Haram killed seven people when they fired a rocket-propelled grenade into the IDP camp.
Monday’s attack in Adamawa was the first in the state this year after a spate of raids and suicide bombings, including in November, when at least 50 people were killed at a mosque in the town of Mubi.
Maina Ularamu, a former Madagali local government chairman, said three people were killed and two others were critically injured.
Resident David Maigrai supported Ularamu’s account and added: “They burnt several shops and many homes. They also stole food.
“On their way out of the village, they ran into a group of vigilantes on patrol in Kuda village, who engaged them in a shoot-out, killing two of the attackers.”
There have been repeated attacks in and around Madagali, which borders Borno state and the militants’ Sambisa Forest stronghold.