Boko Haram insurgents killed six people in a series of attacks in northeast Nigeria, looting shops and burning homes, residents said on Tuesday, February 5.
The latest attacks underline the threat to civilians in the region, with security high on the agenda as Nigerians prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections on February 16.
Three shot dead near Tubba in Borno state
On Monday, Boko Haram fighters thought to be from the Abubakar Shekau faction of Boko Haram shot dead three goat herders near the village of Tubba, around eight km (five miles) from Borno state capital Maiduguri.
Two of the three were killed as they tried to recapture the herd of goats. Two others were missing and presumed captured, said local civilian militia leader Mustapha Muhammad.
Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted farmers, loggers and herders, accusing them of passing information on the group to soldiers and the militia fighting them.
Last month, four farmers were killed as they worked near Molai, five km outside Maiduguri.
Three killed near Madagali in Adamawa state
Later on Monday, fighters thought to be from the Abubakar Shekau faction of Boko Haram stormed the villages of Shuwa and Kirchina villages, in the Madagali area of Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, AFP reported.
Madagali is in the north of Adamawa, near the border with neighboring Borno state, which has been at the epicenter of the nine-year conflict.
“They [Boko Haram] killed one person in Shuwa and two more in Kirchina,” Maina Ularamu, a community leader and former political administrator in the district, told AFP.
“The terrorists attacked Shuwa around 6:45 p.m., firing guns and RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] and chased away the policemen in the town.”
The insurgents stole vehicles, including a police van, and looted shops before setting fire to buildings.
Troops from Madagali, 13 km away, deployed and engaged the militants in a fight, forcing them to withdraw.
The gunmen attacked Kirchina as they fled towards the Sambisa Forest which straddles Borno and Adamawa states, said local resident Sylvanus Waramulu.
“They killed two people, looted shops and burnt them along with several houses,” he added.
There have been a number of incidents in the area in recent days.
On January 30, Nigerian troops “neutralized” five Boko Haram insurgents and captured a suspected militant in the Gwoza area. Gwoza is around 21 km
Troops fought off an attack by fighters believed to be from the Abubakar Shekau-led faction of Boko Haram on January 24 in Pulka, around 18 km north of Gwoza.
Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency began in northeastern Nigeria in 2009 but has since spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military response. Some 27,000 people have been killed and two million others displaced, sparking a dire humanitarian crisis in the region.
Boko Haram split into two factions in mid-2016. One is led by Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi and largely focuses on attacking military and government targets, while the other, led by Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, but ISIS central only gives formal backing to the Barnawi faction, which is known as Islamic State West Africa province.
Both factions of Boko Haram have intensified attacks in the region over several months, but the upsurge in ISWA attacks has been much more serious. Amid signs of a takeover by more hardline leaders, the group has launched dozens of assaults on military targets in Borno and Yobe states in Nigeria.
Army and Air Force strike Boko Haram in Borno state
On February 2, during a “routine defense patrol” in Mallam Fatori in Abadam Local Government Area of Borno state, troops “encountered Boko Haram Terrorists whose intent was to attack troop’s location,” Colonel Ezindu Idimah, Deputy Director Army Public Relations said in a statement published on Facebook that includes some graphic images.
Mallam Fatori is in the north of Borno state in the Lake Chad area, near the border with Niger.
During a firefight, three soldiers were wounded and many militants were killed, the army said, adding that several others “escaped with gunshot wounds.” Image released by the army appeared to show at least four bodies.
Islamic State West Africa province has been active in the Mallam Fatori area in recent months.
On January 17, ISIS claimed a number of soldiers were killed and injured in an ISWA mortar attack on Mallam Fatori. ISWA fighters attacked a military base in Mallam Fatori on December 3. One soldier was killed and several others were injured in the attack, which was repelled with air support.
Also on February 2, the Nigerian Air Force destroyed an ISWA logistics base near Arege, also in northern Borno state.
Nigerian Air Force spokesperson Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola said that intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions had revealed the presence of vehicles and equipment that were well camouflaged under dense vegetation, Daily Trust reported.
“Accordingly, the ATF scrambled a Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet aircraft to attack the location, supported by an ISR aircraft which conducted the Battle Damage Assessment for the mission,” Daramola said.
“The BDA revealed that the Alpha Jet’s bomb strikes scored direct hits on the target location, totally destroying the vehicles and other logistics items,” he said, adding that the area caught fire as a result of the strike.
ISWA militants attacked a military base in Arege on November 30, killing at least one soldier before the military could repeal the assault.
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With reporting from AFP