Nigeria: Roadside bomb blast blamed on ISWA kills 5 people near Maiduguri

Five farmers were killed on Wednesday, March 6 when their vehicle was struck by a mine near the restive northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, militia and residents said.

A truck bringing farmers and their harvest of cucumbers from nearby irrigation fields exploded when it hit a mine outside Addamari, also listed as Khaddamari, around 20 km (about 12 miles) from Borno state capital Maiduguri, they said.

The incident which left 20 people injured was blamed on the Islamic State West Africa province faction of the Boko Haram jihadist group, which last week attacked a military base in the town.

“Five people were killed and 20 injured in the explosion,” Babakura Kolo, a militia leader in Maiduguri told AFP.

“The truck was returning from the fields outside the town around 12:40 p.m. when it hit the mine planted in the middle of the road,” he said.

Kolo’s account was confirmed by Musa Ari, another militia member.

Resident Kassim Butari who gave a similar account said ISWA fighters were most likely responsible for the explosion.

“We recovered four dead bodies and took 21 injured to hospital where one more died,” he said.

On February 28, ISWA fighters attacked a military base in the town, leading to a two-hour battle in which two soldiers and a militiaman were killed, according to military and civilian sources.

The attack was repelled with aerial support during which several fighters were killed and many of their vehicles destroyed.

However on March 2, ISIS claimed ISWA fighters killed 10 soldiers and captured a vehicle along with weapons and ammunition in the attack, publishing images of a military pickup truck and what appeared to be a dead Nigerian soldier.

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.

On March 4, Nigerian journalist Ahmad Salkida reported that according to an audio recording, ISIS replaced Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi with Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar Al-Barnawi as leader of its West Africa affiliate. However, neither the audio nor a transcription is publicly available, and ISIS has not yet made a statement confirming the change of leader.

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.

With reporting from AFP

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