Lagos — The death toll from last week's attack in Borno State that saw insurgents dressed as soldiers, set up checkpoints and gun down travellers on a highway, has risen to, at least, 142.
Abdulaziz Kolomi, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency in the state said, yesterday, that "we recovered 55 bodies on Wednesday and 87 on Thursday". The previous toll from the attack late Tuesday in the Benisheik area was 87.
The insurgents, suspected to be from Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, also burnt scores of homes and buildings in the assault and left corpses littering the roadside.
The motivation behind the assault was not immediately clear, but Boko Haram members have repeatedly carried out revenge attacks against residents over the emergence of vigilante groups that have been formed to assist the military.
Army General Mohammed Yusuf, who briefed the state governor, Alhaji Kassim Shettima on the attack, said troops ran out of ammunition while combating the assault, adding that the insurgents were armed with "anti-aircraft guns."
In one of the latest known attacks, Boko Haram fighters armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket launchers and homemade explosives reportedly raided Yadi Buni Town in Yobe State on September 18, setting fire to a makeshift police station, telecommunications masts, parts of the local government headquarters and the home of the divisional police head, whose wife was burnt to death inside the building.
Son of the Yobe Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) youth leader was also reportedly killed, while one soldier and nine sect members died in an ensuing shoot-out. On September 17, some 143 commuters were killed and several abducted when well-armed Boko Haram gunmen in military fatigues and bullet-proof vests ambushed vehicles along the busy Maiduguri to Damaturu Express Way in the early evening, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an advocacy group investigating the situation.
Travellers were reportedly asked to produce their identity papers, then were lined up and shot. One survivor was quoted as saying that people from the BornoState capital, Maiduguri, were singled out for execution. The gunmen went on to overrun Benisheik Town, 75 kilometres (44 miles) west of Maiduguri, killing around 14 people and torching over 100 homes, businesses and vehicles, CSW said.
It quoted one report as saying that most of the dead were members or otherwise associated with the Civilian Joint Task Force in charge of fighting militants, and were beheaded. Three policemen and two soldiers were also reported to have died in what were seen as reprisal attacks by Boko Haram against those opposed to them.
The phone network in Borno has been switched off since the emergency measures were imposed, a move the military said was aimed at blocking the Islamists from coordinating attacks.
Some have suggested that the lack of phone service has prevented civilians from sounding the alarm during attacks. It has also made it difficult to verify information from the region.