A Boko Haram ambush on an oil survey team and an ensuing battle with Nigerian security forces has left more than 50 people dead. Details are still emerging about exactly what happened.
More than 50 people have been killed in northern Nigeria in an ambush by 'IS' militant group, Boko Haram. The victims were part of an oil exploration team, and included soldiers, civilians and staff from the University of Maiduguri. With strict military control over access to rural Borno, details of the attack have been slow to emerge.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been surveying, for more than a year, for what it says could be vast oil reserves in the Lake Chad Basin, where Boko Haram is active. On Tuesday, militants are reported to have kidnapped members of the survey team.This was followed by a rescue attempt that has allegedly left scores of people dead.
Nigeria's oil minister said he was still waiting for official confirmation from military authorities on the kidnapping and attempted rescue of people, including NNPC staff. He declined to comment on the death toll.
Rising death toll
According to AFP, a source on the ground said on Thursday: "The death toll keeps mounting. Now we have more than 50... and more bodies are coming in. It's clear that the attack wasn't for abduction. They (Boko Haram) attacked just to kill."
In Magumeri, 50 kilometres (32 miles) northwest of Maiduguri, an aid agency worker has said that 47 bodies were recovered from the bush as of Wednesday evening.
"Eleven of them were badly burned in the attack. They were burned alive in their vehicle, which was stuck in a trench. We buried them here because they couldn't be taken to Maiduguri."
Dani Mamman, from the University of Maiduguri, confirmed they had received four staff member's bodies, and said two of them were academics.
"We got the impression our staff on the team were rescued, because that was what the military spokesman said yesterday. But we were shocked when we were given four dead bodies. This means it wasn't a rescue. We still have other staff that are yet to be accounted for."
Williams Attah, a resident of Maiduguri, described the situation to DW: "From recent happenings nobody is safe, some people were kidnapped, some people were ambushed, even the University of Maiduguri is not safe now. The government needs to come out, put politics aside, and face things squarely."
Setback for Nigeria
The deadly ambush is a blow to the Nigerian government after it claimed success against Boko Haram militants in recent months.
In December, the Islamist group appeared to be permanently in decline after President Muhammadu Buhari announced its last stronghold in the Sambisa forest had been destroyed.
However, insurgents from the outfit continue to carry out attacks and terrorize the population.
Local Maiduguri resident, Daniel Nyam Gwash, told DW: "Going by the full force of their re-emergence nobody believes what the military has been preaching all this while. We have not seen any changes that back-up the claim of the military that they have subdued Boko Haram insurgence. Look at the killing all over the place."
Nigerian political analyst, Umar Baba Kumo, also spoke with DW: "They (Boko Haram) want to show the military that they can still operate, despite the huge security and the strategies that were introduced. Nonetheless the attacks have continued. People are becoming very apprehensive. They are becoming disturbed that despite the gains that were recorded in the past, these people are trying to revert to the situation we were facing earlier. It is very disturbing."
At least 20,000 people have been killed and some 2.7 million more forced to leave their homes during Boko Haram's eight-year insurgency to create an Islamic state across parts of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Boko Haram is also known for kidnapping civilians, especially young women and boys, for recruitment purposes.
The most prominent of these cases was the abduction of 276 girls from a government school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. Since then, at least 100 of the girls have been rescued.
Two-thirds of Nigerian revenue comes from oil. But constant attacks on energy facilities in its southern Niger Delta oil heartland last year cut production by more than a third, deepening the recession in Africa's biggest economy.
cw, cl/bk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)