More than 43 people were killed on Saturday in what the Nigerian president called a “senseless” attack in northeastern Nigeria.
The attackers tied up farm workers working in the rice fields and slit their throats near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, according to reports.
It is one of the worst attacks in recent months in an area where Boko Haram and Islamic State insurgent groups in West Africa are active.
No one has claimed responsibility yet.
“I condemn the murder of our hard working farmers by terrorists in Borno State. The whole country is hurt by these senseless killings. My thoughts are with their families at this time of mourning. May their souls rest in peace ”, said President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr. Buhari also called “the terrorist killings insane”, according to his spokesman Garba Shehu.
President @MBuhari expressed grief over the killing of farmers in the rice fields in Zabarmari, in the local government of Jere in Borno state, calling the killings terrorists insane.
– Garba Shehu (@GarShehu) November 28, 2020
“We recovered 43 bodies, all of them shot, as well as six others seriously injured,” a local militiaman who assisted the survivors told AFP news agency.
Other bodies were reportedly found later – but the exact number of victims was not immediately known.
Reports also indicate that around 15 women were abducted.
The victims were laborers from Sokoto State in northwestern Nigeria, about 1,000 km (600 miles), who had traveled to the northeast to find work, another militiaman told AFP.
Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum attended the funeral of the victims on Sunday.
“It is disheartening that more than 40 citizens have been slaughtered while working on their farmland,” he told reporters.
“Our people are in very difficult situations, they are in two different extreme conditions: on the one hand, [if] 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. It’s very sad.”
He called on the federal government to recruit more soldiers and members of other security forces to protect farmers in the region.
The farmers “were attacked because they disarmed and arrested a Boko Haram gunman who tormented them on Friday,” local parliament member Ahmed Satomi told the Premium Times newspaper.
Correspondents say farmers have already been attacked by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram, who suspect them of passing information on to the military.
Last month, Boko Haram fighters killed 22 farmers working in irrigation fields in two separate incidents.
Six soldiers were reportedly killed in a jihadist ambush near the town of Baga in Borno state on Sunday, BBC’s Chris Ewokor said in Abuja.
Soldiers were on their way to the area to strengthen security at a food depot for those displaced by the conflict.
Despite regional efforts to end Boko Haram’s campaign of violence, the group has stepped up its attacks in recent months.
The Nigerian government has repeatedly claimed that militant Islamist groups have been technically defeated, according to correspondents.
President Buhari, who claimed five years ago that Boko Haram had been defeated, said he had given all necessary support to the armed forces to protect the Nigerian population.
But the Nigerian military has been unable to quell the insurgency affecting the region, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed or kidnapped.