The death toll from an attack by jihadists linked to the Islamic State group on a village in northeast Nigeria has risen to 69, security sources and residents said Wednesday.
Fighters believed to be from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction shot and ran over residents with vehicles in the assault on the remote village of Felo on Tuesday.
The sources told AFP that the death toll had risen from 59 after 10 more bodies were discovered in the countryside around the herding community. “They actually killed 69 persons. More bodies were discovered scattered on the open expanse,” a senior military officer said.
Ibrahim Liman, a member of a government-backed anti-jihadist militia, gave the same overall figure. “The bodies were strewn over a large area as the insurgents pursued their victims, shooting them and crushing them with their vehicles,” he said.
A community leader who asked not to be named said the attackers had mown down the 69 “men, and children” as they watched over their cattle at a watering hole outside the village. “Our people were caught off guard by the gunmen who surrounded them,” the leader said. “It is an open field with nowhere to hide. They couldn’t escape, they couldn’t outrun the vehicles.”
Local leaders said earlier that the attack was thought to be in reprisal for the killing of jihadists by a community self-defense group formed to stop cattle thefts.
Northeast Nigeria has been wracked by a decade-long Islamist insurgency that has left at least 36,000 dead and displaced some 2 million.
ISWAP is a splinter faction that broke away from Boko Haram in 2016. It has intensified attacks against the military in the last two years, repeatedly carrying out deadly strikes against soldiers. In recent months there has been an increase in attacks on civilians blamed on the group.
The area where the latest attack took place, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from regional capital Maiduguri, has been repeatedly targeted by the jihadists.
In response, the authorities sent more than 100 militiamen and local hunters to help defend against the assaults.