MAIDUGURI Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected Islamist militants stormed a village in northeast Nigeria on Saturday, killing several people and torching houses near where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped two months ago, a witness said.
Clad in military uniforms, the attackers raided the village of Koronginim in a convoy of sport utility and military vehicles, the witness told Reuters by telephone, asking not to be identified.
The attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) before opening fire and killing “many”, the witness said. “Two of their leaders were giving orders that they should shoot anyone on sight ... I crawled into the nearby bush and fled from there,” the witness added.
Koronginim is in Nigeria’s remote Borno state, the birthplace of a five-year-old insurgency by Boko Haram militants, who are bent on carving out an Islamist caliphate in Nigeria’s largely Muslim north.
The village is about 9 km (6 miles) from Chibok, where Boko Haram abducted the schoolgirls in April, triggering a global campaign for their release. The militants have killed thousands during their campaign, fought back against a military offensive and have stepped up their attacks since the kidnapping.
Chibok residents said they could see smoke billowing up over Koronginim.
“The attackers still pursued the fleeing villagers into the bush and shot them,” the village’s representative in the Chibok local government, Samuel Ogi, told Reuters.
“Some of (the villagers) are still in the bush,” he said, adding the insurgents attacked in the early morning and did not leave until midday.
A source at Chibok hospital told Reuters that at least four seriously wounded people had been brought in.
Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates as “Western education is sinful,” is widely seen as the main security threat to Africa’s largest economy and top oil producer.
Boko Haram initially attacked mostly security forces, government officials and sometimes Islamic clerics who spoke out against it.
But when President Goodluck Jonathan ordered a military offensive a year ago to flush them out, civilians formed vigilante groups to help out - and themselves became targets.
Amnesty International estimates more than 1,500 people were killed in northeast Nigeria in the first three months of this year.
Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Andrew Heavens