KANO, NIGERIA: Boko Haram Jihadists killed at least seven people in a Christmas Eve assault on a village in Nigeria’s troubled north-east, local sources told AFP on Friday.
Security agencies in recent days had warned of an increased risk of attacks during the Christian holiday.
Fighters on trucks and motorcycles stormed Pemi, a predominantly Christian village in Borno state on Thursday, firing “indiscriminately” and setting fire to buildings, said Abwaku Kabu, a militia leader.
In many parts of Nigeria, communities have resorted to armed vigilantes or militias, who work alongside the military, in self-defense.
“The terrorists killed seven people, burned 10 homes and looted food supplies that were to be distributed to residents to celebrate Christmas,” Kabu said.
A body was found on Friday morning, local community leader Ayuba Alamson said, bringing the death toll to seven.
The toll could rise as the villagers fled into the bush during the attack and some people are still missing.
The attackers, who moved away from the nearby Sambisa forest enclave, ransacked medical supplies from a hospital before setting it on fire, the militia leader said, adding that they also burned a church and kidnapped a priest.
The village is located just 20 kilometers from Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 female students six years ago.
Separately on Thursday, gunmen attacked another Christian community in Garkida, neighboring Adamawa state, ransacking drug stores and food supplies before setting homes on fire, residents told AFP.
There were no reports of casualties from that attack.
Nigeria’s security agency, the Department of State Services, issued a warning Tuesday about the planned attacks.
The DSS asked Nigerians “to be more vigilant and report strange movements”, ensuring that “it collaborates with other sister agencies to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect lives and property”.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement Thursday “reiterated his administration’s promise to remain adamant in dealing with the Boko Haram uprising and other forms of crime.”
“For me, providing security to all residents in the country remains an article of faith,” Buhari said in a written Christmas message.
The 78-year-old urged citizens to voluntarily provide “intelligence services / information on the activities of armed bandits, insurgents and other criminal elements within their communities in order to end this plague.”
According to the United Nations, the decades-long conflict in northeastern Nigeria has killed 36,000 people and forced around two million displaced from their homes.
Violence has spread to neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting countries in the region to form a military coalition to fight jihadist groups.