Jihadists attacked an army base and a town in northeast Nigeria on Sunday, killing soldiers and civilians, according to security sources and residents, in the region’s latest violence.
According to reports, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters riding trucks equipped with machineguns stormed the town of Malam Fatori in Abadam district late Friday and early Saturday.
“ISWAP terrorists attacked Malam Fatori, causing massive destruction that we are attempting to quantify,” a military officer told AFP.
“They attacked the military base and engaged troops in a fight, while another group went on a killing spree and set fire to the town,” said the officer, who requested anonymity.
The first attack occurred near the Niger border at dusk on Friday, prompting a fierce battle with soldiers who repelled the assault, according to resident Buji Garwa.
The jihadists hurled explosives and killed residents in a predawn attack on the base and town on Saturday, while others drowned in a river while fleeing.
The death toll is unknown.
“We don’t know how many people were killed because we all fled the town and are now slowly returning to assess the damage,” Garwa said, adding that a large portion of the town had been set ablaze.
“We’ve begun combing the bushes and picking up the bodies of those killed, as well as searching along the river banks for those washed up on the shores,” he said.
Baitu Madari, another resident, said she had counted a dozen people killed in her neighborhood.
“I have no idea how many dead bodies have been discovered in other parts of town.” “The devastation is massive,” she said.
According to an intelligence officer, the attackers came from the nearby village of Kamuya.
“Kamuya is the largest ISWAP camp in the Lake Chad area, and it’s only eight kilometers (five miles) from Malam Fatori,” said the source.
“All previous failed attacks on Malam Fatori have been launched from Kamuya, which is heavily fortified with mines and heavy weapons,” he added.
Malam Fatori, on the outskirts of Lake Chad and 200 kilometers from the regional capital Maiduguri, was captured by Boko Haram jihadists in 2014 but reclaimed by the military in 2015.
In the town, a base was established to repel attacks from ISWAP, which split from Boko Haram in 2016 and turned Lake Chad into a fortress.
Thousands of people who fled to Maiduguri and neighboring Niger were returned to Malam Fatori by the Borno state government in March, despite concerns from aid agencies.
The jihadist conflict that erupted in the northeast in 2009 has killed over 40,000 people and displaced over two million.
The violence has spread to neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, prompting the formation of a regional military force to combat the insurgents.
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