Maiduguri — Environmental officers yesterday recovered 87 more corpses of travelers killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen during an attack on Maiduguri-Damaturu road near Benisheik town in Borno State on Tuesday.
This was in addition to 55 bodies earlier picked up on Wednesday, officials of the Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA) told journalists during a visit by Governor Kashim Shettima to the scene of the violence.
Heavily armed insurgents laid siege on Benisheik, Kaga Local Government Area on Tuesday evening, killing people and setting buildings ablaze.
They also blocked the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, three kilometers away from the town, sorting out and slaughtering dozens of travelers.
Apart from the 142 travellers, also killed in the attack were 2 soldiers, 3 policemen and 14 villagers,bringing the total death toll to 161.
Yesterday, Shettima visited Benisheik where he condoled with the people and offered compensation to victims of the violence.
Saidu Yakubu, a senior BOSEPA official, who briefed Shettima at the highway killing spot, later told journalists "87 bodies were recovered in the bush and our people are still searching for more."
Environmental assistant Abdulaziz Kolomi said, "Apart from the dead bodies recovered today (Thursday), we collected 55 on Wednesday and the fact is that we did not go deep into the bush where I strongly believe that many people have fallen there."
Our correspondent, who was in the convoy of the governor, saw two refuse compactor trucks loaded with decomposing bodies. Soldiers and policemen were seen providing security as environmental officers pull out dead bodies from the surrounding bushes.
During Shettima's visit, he was told that apart from the dead travelers, two soldiers, three policemen and 14 villagers were also killed by the insurgents who stormed the town in a convoy of over 20 vehicles.
Shettima, who was visibly shaken by the carnage, urged the residents to persevere and stop fleeing.
"What happened is barbaric and un-Islamic," he said.
"No one in his right senses will destroy the houses of the poor and their source of livelihood. God is with you, the people of Benisheik, and will liberate you from the hands of the wicked."
Shettima announced the release of N50 million for the rebuilding of over 100 houses and shops burnt in the town. He also approved N3.5 million to be shared among the families of the 14 people killed in the town.
He said in addition to the cash donation, assorted food items would be distributed to them to cushion the effect of the attacks. He also announced the setting up of a 5-member committee to carry out an in-depth assessment and recommend measures to enhance surveillance.
Shettima said government appreciated the efforts of vigilantes known as 'Civilian JTF' and announced the release of two Hilux patrol vehicles for them.
Brigadier General Mohammed Yusuf of the 21 Armoured Brigade, who briefed the governor in the town, said soldiers stationed in Benisheik ran out of ammunitions and this forced them to leave their places of duty during the incident.
"Our men did not desert Benisheik, they would be back latest by Friday (today) after full reinforcement," he said.
Another officer, Colonel Babalola, who briefed Shettima at the military base in the town which was also bombed by the insurgents, said, "Three policemen and two soldiers lost their lives during the encounter."
A soldier who spoke to correspondents in confidence said the insurgents had superior power.
"The terrorists were using anti-aircraft guns while we were using AK47 rifles and some RPGs. They came in droves, driving about 20 pick-up trucks accompanied with two light-armored tankers, all wearing military colors. We had to retreat to our base to reinforce after running out of ammunition," he said.
"However, they followed us down and surrounded our base and began to shell our building. We couldn't stand the heat of their superior fire power. We had to retreat into the village after they killed two of our soldiers and three policemen."
The soldier said after the siege, the insurgents took away an armoured tank and four pick-up vehicles painted in military colours from the base.
Villagers who insisted on leaving Benisheik yesterday said the Federal Government was not sensitive to their plight.
"We are being killed by insurgents who live in the bushes but the some people in Abuja are saying they are winning the war, how?" asks Kande Ali, a mother of five. "We have to relocate to safer places," she added.