Maiduguri. — At least 21 people were killed in two separate Boko Haram attacks on villages near the key city of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, a community leader and a witness said yesterday.
“They (Boko Haram) killed 12 people in Akida Village and nine others in Mbuta village during a raid,” said community leader Mustapha Abbagini.
A witness to the attack in Mbuta gave the same death toll while both said that the insurgents destroyed shops and homes in the raids, which happened on Thursday morning.
The two attacks came before a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a crowded market in the town of Biu, in the south of Borno state, of which Maiduguri is the capital.
A civilian vigilante helping the Nigerian Army in the counter-insurgency and a source at the town’s hospital both said that the death toll had risen from seven to 11 after the blast.
“Four more people, all of them adults, died at the hospital here in Biu while receiving treatment,” said the vigilante, Abor Kabiru.
A source at Biu General Hospital added: “Four of the victims brought here with injuries died at night and so far, at least 11 dead bodies have been identified.”
The death toll could increase further, as health officials were working to establish the identities of at least two other people who were blown apart by the strength of the blast.
The source asked not to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
“There are still about 13 victims who are receiving treatment while seven others with less severe injuries have been treated and discharged,” the source added.
The attack in Akida, which is some 25km from Maiduguri, happened at about 04:30 when villagers were asleep, said Abbagini.
After setting homes and businesses on fire, the insurgents left and attacked Mbuta at about 07:25, he added.
Mbuta resident Hamidu Bukar said: “The attackers destroyed about 25 houses and five shops in our village after killing nine people that attempted to flee from their assault.
“The attackers came from (the) Dikwa area (of Borno state) and they accused us for spying for military authorities . . . I don’t know what they mean by that.
“They threatened that if they fail in their future operations of advancing towards Maiduguri, they would destroy our villages.”
Meanwhile Boko Haram fighters attacked a Chadian village overnight, killing several people including a local chief, in the first known lethal attack by the Nigerian militant group in Chad, residents and a security source said yesterday.
Dozens of militants arrived in the early hours of the morning on motorised canoes at the fishing village on the shores of Lake Chad, setting houses ablaze and attacking a police station.
“They came on board three pirogues and succeeded in killing about ten people before being pushed back by the army,” said a resident of the village of Ngouboua, about 20km east of the Nigerian border.
Other local sources said that the death toll was lower, at between three and five.
The local chief, Mai Kolle, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the army, they said.
An army spokesperson declined immediate comment on the attack.
Militants from the Sunni jihadist group, based in northern Nigeria, have stepped up cross-border attacks in recent weeks in their campaign to carve out an Islamist emirate around the Lake Chad area which borders Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Thousands fled the Niger border town of Diffa this week after a wave of raids and suicide attacks.
Chad’s army, one of the best in the region, has joined a regional offensive against them and says it has killed hundreds of fighters in the past fortnight.
In a bid to contain Boko Haram, which has killed thousands and kidnapped hundreds in its five-year revolt, President Idriss Deby’s government mediated peace talks between the Nigerian government and the group last October.
The talks sought to secure the release of 200 schoolgirls from Nigeria’s Chibok but Boko Haram later said it had married off the schoolgirls to its fighters.
Chad is also the base for a French regional counter-insurgency operation “Barkhane” which provides intelligence and logistical support to the Chadian army.
A source in Barkhane reached by telephone in N’Djamena said he was not immediately aware of the attack.
Nigeria has postponed for six weeks a presidential election that had been due on Saturday, citing the security threat from Boko Haram. — Reuters/AFP.