Boko Haram militants dressed as soldiers have killed at least 200 civilians in three communities in north-eastern Nigeria and the military failed to intervene even though it was warned an attack was imminent, witnesses said.
A community leader who witnessed the killings on Monday said residents of the Gwoza district in Borno state had pleaded for the military to send soldiers to protect the area after they heard that militants were about to attack, but help did not arrive.
It took a few days for survivors to get word of the massacres to Maiduguri, the provincial capital, because travel on the roads is dangerous and phone connections are poor.
Militants of Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, have been taking over villages in the north- east, killing and terrorising civilians and political leaders. The death toll from Monday’s attacks is among the highest.
The militants arrived in pick-up trucks – commonly used by the military – and told villagers in Danjara, Agapalwa and Antagara that they were soldiers “and we are here to protect you all”.
It was the same tactic used by the group when they kidnapped more than 300 girls from a school in the town of Chibok on April 15.
After people gathered in the centre on the orders of the militants, “they begin to shout ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar’ ... then they begin to fire at the people continuously until all that gathered were all dead”, said a witness.
Thousands of people have been killed in the five-year insurgency, more than 2,000 so far this year, and an estimated 750,000 Nigerians have been driven from their homes.