Boko Haram attacks over the weekend have killed almost 80 people in three villages, locals report. Nigerian officials have also confirmed the extremist group's sudden expansion into Lagos and other parts of the country.
Local officials, residents and a vigilante fighter reported the weekend violence in Nigerian villages on Monday. Members of the Islamist terror group Boko Haram allegedly rode in on horseback and began opening fire sporadically on residents of the remote villages of Baanu, Karnuwa and Hambagda.
"Reports reached us of an attack on Baanu village late Friday where Boko Haram gunmen riding on horses opened fire on the village. Sixty-eight people were killed in the attack," the vigilante Babakura Kolo told AFP. Those 68 casualties came from Baanu village on Friday night while locals said another 11 people were shot in Karnuwa and Hambagda on Saturday and Sunday.
"We returned back to the village in the morning after spending the night in the bush, we saw corpses in the streets," said Mustapha Alibe, a farmer who survived the attack.
Governor Kashim Shettima also confirmed the attack on Baanu village while meeting with parents of the abducted Chibok school girls who were captured over 500 days ago. In relation to the attacks he said, "I want us all to understand that the Boko Haram crisis is a calamity that has befallen us, as the insurgents do not discriminate whether somebody is Christian or Muslim, neither do they have any tribal sympathy or affiliations."
The chief imam of the Karnuwa village and his son were among those killed on Saturday, according to Kolo.
Terrorist network expanding
Nigeria's secret police also reported on Monday that Boko Haram was expanding its network across Nigeria, saying it had arrested 20 senior group members in various locations, including southern Lagos and the northern Gombe and Kano states. An intelligence agency spokesman said the militant group was trying to expand its network after losing ground in northeastern urban areas.
Boko Haram, which seeks to establish a breakaway state in its area of influence, has killed around 15,000 people and displaced 1.5 million since 2009. A multi-national joint military force of 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin, is expected to deploy against the terrorist group, soon.