Locals say they recovered 43 bodies after Saturday’s attacks in villages near Maiduguri, the capital of the restive Borno state, which has been plagued by an armed campaign for more than 10 years.
Amid divergent figures, the United Nations late on Sunday amended an earlier statement putting the death toll at 110 people to say that “tens of civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded” in the “brutal” assault that was led by men on motorcycles.
In the statement, Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, also cited “reports that several women may have been kidnapped” and called for their immediate release and return to safety.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the massacre but the assault bore the hallmark of the Boko Haram armed group, which launched its military campaign in 2009, and its splinter faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province [ISWAP]. The groups’ fighters are active in the region and have been blamed for frequent attacks on villages mostly inhabited by farmers.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, which has so far displaced some two million others and has spread to neighboring countries such as Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected to office in 2015 on the back of a promise to eradicate Boko Haram, described the recent attack as “insane” and said “the entire country is hurt by these senseless killings”.
The government had given all the needed support to the armed forces “to take all necessary steps to protect the country’s population and its territory”, Buhari said in a statement via his spokesman on Sunday.