Suspected Boko Haram members at the weekend shot dead more than 20 civilians in northern Borno State, a military spokesman said yesterday.
“The suspected sect members came armed and fired sporadic shots that killed over 20 innocent civilians,” Lt. Haruna Mohammed Sani, spokesman for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) said.
The violence took place on Saturday in Dawashe village, the army lieutenant said in a statement.
He said men from the Civilian Joint Task Force, a vigilance group formed in Boko Haram’s bastion Maiduguri, to combat the Islamist gunmen who have been terrorising the region for many years, entered Dawashe to search for suspects.
The suspected Boko Haram members subsequently opened fire in the village, the spokesman said, adding that the 20 victims were mostly fishermen and traders.
Sani said a dozen other civilians sustained gunshot wounds during the incident but provided no information on casualties among the belligerents.
The toll and circumstances of the incident could not be immediately verified independently.
Among those killed were five members of the “Civilian JTF” who were on a manhunt for Boko Haram in Mainok town, 58km west of Maiduguri.
The attack on the “Civilian JTF” was the first since the group took courage to hunt down Boko Haram in the state in the last two months.
It was also confirmed that a heavily armed Quick Reaction Squad from MNJTF had been deployed to ensure the safety of lives and property in the area.
Dawashi, Daban-Masara and Malan karanti villages are believed to be the stronghold of the insurgent.
The MNJTF said: “As part of the excellent Civil-Military Relations and humanitarian gesture demonstrated by Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a dozen of Boko Haram victims affected by the attack in Dawashe District of Kukawa Local Government, got medical treatment in the Headquarters Field Ambulance in Baga town”.
Some members of the “Civilian JTF” also confirmed to reporters in Maiduguri that five of their members who were killed are from Ajilari, Ngomari Airport and Bulumkutu Ward of Maiduguri Metropolitan.
A member, Aliko Musa said: “it was a huge loss to us, some of our brave colleagues were killed yesterday by the outlawed Boko Haram; they paid the supreme price when we visited Mainok village in search of the terrorists but we shall not relent”, he added.
Spokesman for the JTF, Lt Col Sagir Musa however denied the figure even as he confirmed the Mainok attack. According to him, only one of the Youth Volunteers died while another sustained injuries.
The MNJTF, a joint military force set up in 1998 to combat border crimes, consists of troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger.