, KAWURI, Jan 29 – The number of people killed in a deadly market attack blamed on Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria has risen to 52, police told AFP on Tuesday.
“From the verified figures I have in my records, 52 people have been confirmed killed in the attack,” Borno state police commissioner Lawan Tanko told AFP.
Tanko said on Monday that 45 people had lost their lives in the attack in Kawuri, some 37 kilometres (23 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri, on Sunday.
The attack came on the same day that suspected Boko Haram gunmen fired on worshippers during a service at a Roman Catholic church in neighbouring Adamawa state.
At least 26 people died, according to the state government.
Both incidents came just a week after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan sacked his military top brass in a move interpreted as a sign of his dissatisfaction with the counter-insurgency effort.
Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states were placed under emergency rule in May last year to try to end the insurgency, which has claimed thousands of lives since 2009.
Attacks have continued, most of them in rural areas of Borno.
Nigeria’s new chief of defence staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh, comes from Adamawa and has said he wanted an end to the fighting by April.
In Kawuri, which saw a similar attack in October last year, the head of the local civilian vigilante group, Lawal Mustapha, claimed that 85 people had been killed.
“I participated in the burial of 83 people on Monday,” he said, adding that two more bodies were found burnt and later interred.
There was no independent corroboration of the higher toll and Tanko said that the 52 deaths police recorded were “documented names”.
A further 26 were in hospital and the toll was likely to rise, he added.
“Some of the injured have third-degree burns and they’re likely to die,” the police commissioner said.
Borno governor Kashim Shettima, who toured the village, was told the attackers arrived in 22 vehicles, including two armoured personnel carriers and six pick-up trucks in military colours.
They opened fire with assault rifles and set fire to seven mosques in an attack that lasted from around 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) to well past midnight.
Vehicles and motorcycles were burnt out and houses razed.
Local councillor Dala Lawal said the imam of one mosque was killed while two others were killed as they prayed.
“We saw hell. The attackers were merciless,” he told reporters.
The second attack in the village of Waga Chakawa, Adamawa, also bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram.
“The assailants, who came in in a Hilux (pick-up truck) and an armoured car, locked the doors of the church and shot at worshippers sporadically,” said Raymond Danbouye, a spokesman for the Diocese of Yola.
Danbouye said the parish priest in the village, Jerome Odineze, had told him he buried 22 of his parishioners and 31 people died in total.
Several people injured in the attack, including seven women, were receiving treatment in hospital, he added.