Boko Haram blamed for killing six traders and looting convoy near Nigerian border
The spate of attacks casts strong doubt on the government’s claims that the jihadist militant organisation is a spent force
Kano, Nigeria — Boko Haram fighters killed six traders when they ambushed a convoy of lorries under military escort in northeast Nigeria, a civilian militia member and a local resident said on Thursday.
"Six traders were killed in an ambush by Boko Haram gunmen on Tuesday," said Umar Kachalla, from the volunteer security force in Gamboru, a trading hub on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
The attack happened at about 6pm at Mussini village, about 16km from Gamboru.
Kachalla said the gunmen opened fire on the 23-strong convoy, forcing it to stop, then looted supplies and torched the vehicles. "The poor state of the road makes it difficult for motorists to escape any ambush because they need to manoeuvre through deep and gaping potholes," he added.
Abubakar Yusuf, from Gamboru, passed the scene on Thursday morning. "I can see the trucks lined up. They are all burnt. Nothing remains but heaps of ash from the goods," he said. "It is true. Six people were killed in the ambush, including five men and one woman. Attacks against traders have become frequent despite the military escorts."
AFP asked for confirmation and comment from Nigerian Army spokesman Brig-Gen Texas Chukwu. In a text message, he said: "Is not true."
Further questions went unanswered.
Nigeria’s government and military maintain that Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009, is a spent force and on the verge of defeat.
It is now encouraging thousands of people displaced by the conflict to return to their homes from makeshift camps in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
But international aid agencies say conditions are not right for mass returns. Despite claims of free movement, civilian vehicles still require military escorts into and out of Maiduguri.
Last weekend, jihadists ambushed troops in the Bama area of Borno and separately overran a military base in neighbouring Yobe. But the military rejected reports that dozens of troops were killed and told local people "their safety is guaranteed", despite repeated attacks, raids and suicide bombings. In June, 43 people were killed in a wave of suicide attacks in the town of Damboa.