Farmers harvesting crops in Borno state have been attacked by gunmen on motorcycles in the “most violent direct assault” on civilians this year, according to the UN.
A “gruesome” massacre of farmers in northeast Nigeria has killed at least 110 people, the United Nations has said, initially increasing the toll to 43 and then at least 70 dead.
The killings took place early Saturday afternoon in the village of Koshobe and other rural communities in the local government area of Jere, near Maiduguri, the capital of the affected Borno state. conflict.
“Gunmen on motorcycles carried out a brutal attack on civilians harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said in a statement on Sunday.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many more were injured in this attack,” he added, noting that several women were reportedly kidnapped.
“The incident is the most violent direct attack on innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice, ”Kallon said.
No responsibility has been claimed for the attack, but the armed group Boko Haram and its dissident faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), carried out a series of deadly attacks in the region in recent years.
Both groups are active in the region, where fighters have killed more than 30,000 people over the past decade in an armed campaign that has displaced some two million people.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari denounced the latest massacre.
“I condemn the murder of our hard working farmers by terrorists in Borno State. The whole country is hurt by these senseless assassinations, ”declared the president via his spokesperson.
Earlier on Sunday, Borno governor Babaganan Umara Zulum told reporters that at least 70 farmers had been killed. He was speaking in the village of Zabarmari after attending the funeral of 43 people whose bodies were found on Saturday.
Zulum urged the federal government to recruit more soldiers, members of the Civilian Joint Task Force and civil defense fighters to protect farmers in the region.
He described people facing desperate choices.
“On the one hand, they stay at home, they can be killed by hunger and famine, on the other, they go to their farmland and risk being killed by the insurgents,” he said. .
Bulama Bukarti, an analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, said the failure to control Boko Haram has devastated lives and the economy.
“The security forces are obviously losing this war,” he told Al Jazeera, describing 2019 as “the deadliest year” for the Nigerian security forces since the start of the armed campaign of Boko Haram in 2009.
“Around 800 members of the security forces were killed, most of them in the first half of last year, and the Nigerian military responded by changing its strategy by introducing what it called the ‘super strategy. camp ”by which they withdrew soldiers from remote communities and rural areas and consolidated them. in what they call “super camps” to reduce the death toll among the military, ”Bukarti said.
“The strategy was successful in reducing the death toll among the military, but the side effect is that the Nigerian military effectively ceded control of rural Nigeria to Boko Haram fighters.
“You have Boko Haram ruling northeast Nigeria and criminal gangs running rural communities in northwest Nigeria; this has a devastating effect on the economy of Nigeria and on the future of the country as a whole.