Boko Haram militants are suspected to have burned and killed no less than 30 people and abducted others Sunday night as the extremist faction continues to terrorize northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
A spokesperson for Borno Gov. Babagana Umara Zulum told CNN that at least 30 people, including a pregnant woman and her baby, are now dead after suspected Boko Haram militants set sleeping travelers on fire in the Auno village of the Borno state.
The travelers were camping out in the village for the night as they missed a 5 p.m. curfew in the state capital of Maiduguri, about 10 miles away.
Sources reported to Vanguard that while most counts say that at least 30 have died, the death toll could be as high as 40. That would include the death of six militants.
According to the state government, militants burned 18 vehicles. Some of the destroyed vehicles included trucks loaded up with food to be taken to the markets the following day.
State government spokesman Ahmad Abdurrahman Bundi told AFP that militants stormed Auno village with trucks and mounted weapons. The militants killed, looted and burned.
Village resident Shehu Tanko told CNN that the bodies of the pregnant woman and her baby were among the corpses recovered.
“They burn everywhere. The fire was still on till this morning,” Tanko explained. “We are still looking for many people around here.”
A source told Vanguard that the pregnant woman was likely raped before she was burned to death and that the baby’s head was crushed.
Boko Haram is an Islamic militant insurgency responsible for killing tens of thousands and displacing millions in the last decade-plus.
The terrorist group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2016 but soon splintered after Islamic State leadership tried to replace Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
Although the Nigerian government claims to have defeated Boko Haram militarily, Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province continue to carry out attacks in Borno.
“We have to be brutal in telling the truth. I am pushed to the wall to say the truth. Since I was inaugurated as governor of Borno State, Boko Haram has attacked Auno six times,” Zulum said in a statement, according to Vanguard. “Another thing is that the military has been withdrawn from Auno town. I am not undermining the capacity of the military but we have made repeated appeals for the military to establish their unit in Auno.”
Gov. Zulum recently gave a guest lecture at the National Defence College in Abuja in which he detailed the challenges of the Boko Haram insurgency in the Borno state. Zulum alleged that the insurgency is responsible for making 59,311 orphans and 59,213 widows.
Boko Haram over the years has abducted hundreds of school girls. The group has also abducted pastors and others in attempts to raise funds through ransom payments.
Last month, Boko Haram executed Rev. Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s chapter in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State.
Andimi was kidnapped in early January and was seen in a ransom video praising God before his death.
Also in January, the Islamic State released a propaganda video purporting to show the killing of a Nigerian Christian university student by a child soldier. In December, the Islamic State faction claimed to have killed 11 Christian aid workers in Nigeria in retaliation for the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In a statement Monday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared that the Nigerian government is “combating frontally the dreadful activities of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State.”
Buhari and his administration have faced international scrutiny over their inability to thwart extremist attacks by Boko Haram, ISWAP and radical Fulani herdsmen in the country’s Middle Belt.
Last December, the U.S. State Department listed Nigeria for the first time on its special watch list for countries that engage or tolerate severe religious freedom violations. Nigeria was placed on the list because of the “lack of effective government response” to increasing violence.