MAIDUGURI Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected Boko Haram militants have killed at least 17 people and abducted dozens in a series of attacks in the central region of Nigeria’s northeast Borno State, the head of a local administration said on Sunday.
The killings happened on Thursday and mark the latest in a number of assaults by suspected Boko Haram insurgents despite the announcement of a ceasefire by the Nigeria government and ongoing negotiations with the group in neighboring Chad.
“Seventeen persons were killed by the assailants after last Thursday’s attack on Ndongo community,” Alhaji Shettima Maina, head of the local government in Mafa district, told journalists. “We buried the remains of the victims in Mafa on Friday.”
Chadian and Nigerian officials have attributed the attacks to dissident factions within the group and bandits posing as Boko Haram respectively.
Officials of both governments say they are confident of reaching an agreement with the militant Islamists which could end the conflict in Nigeria’s restive northeast and free over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped in April.
But the continued killings and abductions have cast doubts over the ceasefire. Maina said about 30 youths had been abducted over the last couple of days.
“Once they invade a community, they abduct all boys aged 13 years and above and take them to their base,” Maina said. “The insurgents also abduct all girls aged 11 years and above.”
Mafa resident Mallam Ashiekh Mustapha confirmed the killings to journalists. He said the insurgents had also carted away about 300 cows.
The Nigerian insurgent group, which has fought a bloody five-year revolt mostly in the northeast, has said it wants to carve out an Islamist enclave in the religiously-mixed nation, Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy.
The group has also carried out attacks in northern Cameroon and Niger. Fears that it could destabilize the region have prompted the leaders of Chad, Nigeria, Benin, Niger and Cameroon to set up a multinational force to tackle the insurgents.
Cameroon’s defense ministry spokesman said separately in a statement on Sunday that Cameroon troops had killed 39 Boko Haram militants during three different incidents on Friday in the far north region near the border with Nigeria.
Lieutenant-Colonel Didier Badjeck said about 30 Boko Haram insurgents attack Glawi village during one incursion, killing four Nigerian refugees and wounding a Cameroonian.
“Our defense forces chased them to the border, killing 12 members of the group and destroying some important military equipment,” Badjeck said.
He added that another heavily armed column tried to enter Cameroon through Amchide and Kolofata, but were intercepted, with 27 attackers killed and several vehicles with heavy machine guns destroyed.
Additional reporting by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu in Yaounde; Writing by Bate Felix, editing by David Evans and Crispian Balmer