Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda, has conducted a major assault on a village in the Konduga Local Government Area of Borno state, killing dozens of residents. The attack occurred about 35 kilometers (22 miles) southeast of the Borno state capital of Maiduguri, almost halfway between the sites of Boko Haram’s twin December attacks on military facilities in Maiduguri and Bama.
The assault on Konduga took place yesterday afternoon, when a convoy of trucks painted to resemble military vehicles disgorged Boko Haram militants armed with automatic weapons and explosives. According to survivors, approximately 400 Boko Haram fighters dressed in camouflage and led by an armored personnel carrier convinced locals that they were the Nigerian military, and called people over before opening fire. Locals described how soldiers and police in the area fled, and complained that it took hours for the air force to send the aircraft that eventually chased the attackers off.
A Nigerian military spokesman, Colonel Mohammed Dole, confirmed the incident, but declined to give casualty figures. Early estimates put the death toll at 39, however, and reports said over 1,000 homes and a mosque were burned to the ground.
According to one witness, the militants managed to abduct 20 young girls from the local college before fleeing. A conflicting report from another news outlet said that 20 masked gunmen broke into the school and ordered the students to abandon their studies and return home. The report went on to say that no students were harmed but that living facilities were set on fire, resulting in the indefinite closure of the school.
Borno state governor Kashim Shettima told survivors that “Boko Haram are better armed” than the Nigerian military, and called for more troops to be sent to the state. He went on to say that “about 60 to 70 percent of the town has been burnt down but we are willing to rebuild it.” The governor also promised to spend 100 million naira (over $600,000) on emergency materials.
Konduga is located on the edge of the Sambisa forest, a known refuge for Boko Haram. In late November, the Nigerian military claimed that it had killed over 100 of the group’s fighters in the Sambisa forest.
Boko Haram has launched several massed attacks in northern Nigeria over the past year. In the most dramatic attack, hundreds of fighters assaulted an airbase on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, using trucks and even a stolen armored personnel carrier. At least 20 security personnel and 24 insurgents were killed, while two helicopters and three decommissioned military aircraft were “incapacitated.” [See LWJ report, Boko Haram overruns Nigerian Air Force base].