Boko Haram attacks on villages in northern Nigeria’s Borno state leave 8 dead

Boko Haram gunmen killed eight people when they attacked two villages in restive northeast Nigeria in an attempt to steal livestock on Friday, September 14, local militia said.

The militants moved into Modu Ajiri and Bulama Kayiri villages in Borno state to take cattle and sheep but the villagers put up a fight to save their livestock.

“Fighting erupted when the villagers tried to stop the attackers,” local militia spokesman Bunu Bukar Mustapha told AFP.

“Eight people were killed in the fight and four others were injured,” he said from the state capital Maiduguri, 90 kilometres (55 miles) away.

The militants opened fire on the villagers who were armed with machetes, bows and arrows, cudgels and swords, he said.

“The villagers were no match for the Boko Haram terrorists who came with guns,” said militia leader Babakura Kolo, who gave a similar toll.

After the attack, the jihadists herded all the stolen livestock into the bush, he said, adding that residents of the two villages had fled for fear of renewed attack by the insurgents.

Mustapha said the bodies of the victims were recovered by soldiers and militia who took them to the nearby town of Nganzai, around 10 km (6 miles) away.

Boko Haram intesifies attacks

Boko Haram has intensified its armed campaign in recent weeks, and has launched a number of major assaults on military bases in the remote northeast region, undermining repeated claims by the military that the jihadist group has been defeated.

On September 12, militants attacked a military base in Damasak in the far north of Borno state. They were repelled with aerial support after an hours-long battle.

On September 7, a base was sacked in the town of Gudumbali, around 80 km (50 miles) from Damasak. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee and Boko Haram temporarily seized the town before withdrawing the next day.

On August 30, 48 soldiers were killed in an attack on a military base in Zari, around 30 km (20 miles) from Damasak on the border with Niger. That attack is thought to have been launched from nearby Garunda village, where 17 soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram attack on a military base on August 8.

But, attacks have not been limited to military targets.

On September 4, two people were killed and 25 others kidnapped in a Boko Haram ambush on a convoy near the town of Gwoza.

On August 6, seven people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram dawn raid on Munduri village near Maiduguri. Several of those killed were beheaded and the entire village was burned, and on August 3, five people were killed and the village of Gasarwa was razed in a similar raid near the garrison town of Monguno.

Boko Haram is divided into two factions that have competing goals and operational methods. One led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, largely focuses on attacking the military. Known as Islamic State West Africa Province, it is apparently in talks with the Nigerian government. The other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians.

The recent attacks on military targets are believed to have been carried out by the Barnawi faction.

Boko Haram no longer controls swathes of territory in northeast Nigeria as it did at the height of its insurgency in 2014, but its militants still pose a threat to the region. The insurgency is in its ninth year and has left 20,000 people dead and displaced 2.6 million.

Under pressure to defend his track record, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has insisted that the Islamists are a spent force as he gears up for elections next year..

Farmer-herder conflict

Deadly conflict between famers and herders is also a significant threat in Nigeria, but is generally confined to the central belt.

Farming and cattle herding communities have for years been targeted by gangs of cattle thieves and kidnappers who raid villages, steal cows and abduct locals for ransom.

In late June, more than 200 people were killed in a weekend of violence against farming communities in Nigeria’s central Plateau state, and at least 10 people were killed by suspected cattle thieves in raids on remote villages in Zamfara.

The conflict between central Nigeria’s herders and farmers is stoked by ethnic rivalries and access to land. Within Nigeria some commentators have sought to blame language or religious differences for the violence, as most of the Fulani herders involved in the attacks are Muslim, and most farmers are Christians from the Berom and other ethnic groups.

The attacks have prompted villagers to form militia groups for protection but they, too, have been accused of taking the law into their own hands and killing suspected bandits.

Could mining offer a ‘third way’ for Nigeria to cool a simmering conflict?

With reporting from AFP

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