MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Suspected Boko Haram militants, who arrived on motorcycles throwing bombs, raided a mostly Christian town in Nigeria’s northeast after nightfall on Saturday, residents and a military source said.
Residents said scores of people had been killed in the town of Shani, but a police source said they had been unable to verify the death toll as communications to the town had been largely cut off.
“They rode on motorcycles and were more than 30 men. They started throwing bombs into houses...then the Boko Haram fired shots at people fleeing,” resident Ishaya Brimah told Reuters by phone from a nearby village on Sunday.
“They set ablaze the police station, houses and a telecom mast...I saw people fleeing, some bodies on the ground.”
Shani is located in Nigeria’s Borno state, the heartland of Islamist group Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency, which has displaced more than one million people.
The Sunni jihadist movement is fighting to revive a medieval Islamic caliphate in Nigeria’s north. The group is suspected to be behind Friday’s attack on the central mosque in the second city of Kano, where at least 100 people died.
A shopkeeper in Shani, Shuabu Lawal, said he started hearing explosions at around 8 pm on Saturday evening.
“A boy ran into my shop and said his father and elder brother had been shot. He was only wearing shorts, no top and sweating despite the wintry weather. I shut down my shop immediately, leaving some items outside,” Lawal said.
The police source said Shani’s police station had been destroyed in the attack. Militants have already attacked the town twice this year, most recently in June when at least 11 people were killed and the office of the electoral commission was burnt.
Reporting by Lanre Ola, Writing by Julia Payne, Editing by Rosalind Russell