An attack this weekend by Boko Haram fighters on a funeral in the northeastern state of Borno in Nigeria has left 65 people dead, almost three times the initial toll, a local official said.
Officials said the attack could be a retaliation for the killing of 11 Boko Haram fighters two weeks ago [Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]
Dozens of more bodies were discovered on Sunday following the assault a day before by gunmen on a village close to the regional capital, Maiduguri.
“It is 65 people dead and 10 injured,” said Muhammed Bulama, the local government chairman.
Bulama added that more than 20 people had died in the initial attack on a funeral gathering. Dozens more were killed as they tried to chase after the attackers.
The leader of a local anti-Boko Haram militia confirmed the death toll, giving a slightly different account of the attack.
Bunu Bukar Mustapha told AFP news agency that 23 people were killed as they returned from the funeral and “the remaining 42 were killed when they pursued the terrorists”.
Bulama said he thought the latest attack was in retaliation for the killing two weeks ago of 11 Boko Haram fighters by local residents when the fighters approached their village. The residents also captured 10 automatic rifles.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday condemned the attack and directed the country’s air force and army to begin air patrols and ground operations to hunt down the attackers, a statement released by the president’s office said.
Boko Haram fighters have repeatedly attacked the surrounding Nganzai district.
Boko Haram has waged a decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria that has killed around 27,000 people and displaced more than two million others.
The group has splintered between the Boko Haram faction loyal to its longtime leader Abubakar Shekau and an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group.
Shekau’s group tends to hit softer targets including civilians, while the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has since last year ratcheted up its campaign against the military.