, MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Feb 1 – Around 50 people were killed when Boko Haram fighters armed with guns and explosives attacked a village in northeastern Nigeria, medics and local residents said on Sunday.
It was the third deadly attack to hit Nigeria’s restive northeast since Wednesday, after suicide bombers killed at least 24 people in two separate attacks on towns to the south.
Nigeria’s army said the gunmen attacked Dalori just outside the northern city of Maiduguri late on Saturday, burning down the village and sending residents fleeing into the bush.
The attack was swiftly condemned by the European Union, which said it was committed to supporting regional African states in the fight against such extremist groups.
Regional health officials said they were still counting the victims, but gave an interim toll of 46 dead.
“We are still working on the actual death toll. The bodies were collected by different teams and we are going round the hospitals collating the number of bodies taken there,” said Mohammed Kanar, head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for northeast Nigeria.
“At the moment we have over 46 dead and 35 injured… We need to wait till tomorrow to get an exact toll.”
Residents and an aid worker said at least 50 people were killed in the assault which took place after evening prayers in the mostly Muslim region.
“We were seated outside our home shortly after the Isha prayer when we heard gunshots and within a few minutes the invaders had arrived,” Malam Masa Dalori, a community leader, told AFP.
“They came in Golf saloon cars and began to shoot sporadically. Many people ran to the bush including myself,” he said.
– ‘Whole village razed’ –
“When we came back in the morning the entire community had been razed. At least 50 people were killed, and there are many people wounded,” he added.
An aid worker who did not want to be named, also put the number of dead at more than 50.
Visiting the scene on Sunday, an AFP correspondent found the village largely reduced to piles of smoking ashes scattered with charred cooking pots and household items.
Small groups of women and children sat on the ground, gazing at the devastation as men wandered past burnt-out cars and ruined structures blackened by fire.
Army spokesman Colonel Mustapha Anka said the assailants had opened fire after arriving in the village on motorbikes and in two cars and had then begun torching homes.
Three female suicide bombers who initially tried to mingle with the villagers “were intercepted then blew themselves up,” he said.
The assailants also tried to penetrate a camp for people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency situated just outside the village, but were repelled by troops, he said.
– ‘Join the fight’ –
Separately, another three people were killed and 56 wounded in two suicide attacks on Chadian villages in the Lake Chad region, a local security official said.
In the first attack, a bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up in Guie village, killing one and injuring 32, while a second bomber hit Miterine village killing two and wounded 24.
The Lake Chad region, which borders Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger, has been frequently targeted by Boko Haram and all four countries have formed a coalition along with Benin to fight the group.
Following the Nigeria attack, the EU reiterated the bloc’s commitment to provide 50 million euros ($54 million) “to assist countries of the region to fight terrorism”.
“The EU remains committed to providing a comprehensive range of political, development and humanitarian support to Nigeria and the region in tackling this threat and in ensuring the sound development of the region,” it said.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who in December alleged that Nigeria had largely won the fight against Boko Haram, urged local people to help the security forces in their bid to crush the group.
“I urge all citizens wherever they live to own the war against terror and to be part of the fight because it is the only way we can finish the remaining work that needs to be done to make our country safe again,” he said in a statement.
Boko Haram which seeks a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria has killed some 17,000 people and forced more than 2.6 million others to flee their homes since 2009.