At least 44 persons have been slaughtered at a mosque in northeastern Nigeria, officials in Borno state said Monday.
According to AFP, suspected Islamist extremists stormed a mosque and shot dead 44 worshipers and a dozen others from a nearby village in Nigeria’s restive northeast, officials said on Monday.
The attacks over the weekend were believed to be in revenge over citizen vigilante groups forming to help the military battle the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has been waging an insurgency since 2009, AFP reports.
“Gunmen believed to be Boko Haram members entered the mosque and opened fire on Muslim worshipers, killing 44,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly of the attack in Konduga on Sunday.
“We believe the attack was not unconnected with the cooperation residents are giving to security operatives in identifying and arresting Boko Haram members in their midst,” he told AFP.
A local official said suspected Boko Haram members also raided Ngom village in the nearby Mafa district and shot dead 12 people on Saturday night.
“Boko Haram members came into Ngom village … and shot dead 12 people on Saturday night,” the official said, also on condition of anonymity. He said they were shot at their homes, AFP reports.
Some residents spoke of the attackers in Konduga arriving wearing army camouflage, a tactic Boko Haram has used in the past to disguise themselves, though those details had not been officially confirmed.
The violence came as Nigeria’s military pursues an offensive in the country’s northeast aimed at ending the insurgency, with a state of emergency declared in the region in May, according to AFP.
Nigeria backlash against Boko Haram spurs risky vigilante war
According to reuters.com:
“In Maiduguri, a city of tall trees and mosques ringed by tin-roofed slums at the edge of a semi-desert, youths armed with sticks man checkpoints. One group examines car [trunks] and bags for bombs.
“The military has arrested hundreds of Boko Haram suspects since President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states in northeast Nigeria in May, and it has praised local vigilante groups for helping identify and denounce them.
“‘If people had given us this type of cooperation earlier, we could have done better in tackling the insurgency,’ northeast military spokesman Lieutenent-Colonel Sagir Musa said.
“A number of vigilantes interviewed by Reuters said they were fed up with being caught between the two sides.
“‘Unless something was done all of us would be killed sooner or later by either the Boko Haram or the security operatives who were suspicious of every youth,’ said Ba-Lawan, 25, founder of a vigilante group in Maiduguri. ‘It was to save ourselves.’
“Mohammed Kawa, 28, said he feared Boko Haram would ‘turn all of us into their slave’ if nothing was done to stop them.
“Before May, Boko Haram had seemed close to setting up a de facto Islamic state in the lawless border areas around Lake Chad, where Nigeria meets Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Local council officials had fled and police stations were empty, especially in Borno state, relic of an old Islamic caliphate.”