Suspected Islamic extremists have targeted two Christian villages in mainly Muslim north-east Nigeria and killed at least 12 civilians, including guests at a wedding reception, witnesses said.
Survivors of the weekend attacks in Borno state said eight civilians were killed when extremists fired on a wedding party on Saturday night in Tashan-Alede village, and another four were killed yesterday in neighbouring Kwajffa village.
A security official confirmed the attacks but did not have casualty figures.
Soldiers fighting to put down the four-year Islamic uprising reported that they killed at least 57 insurgents in weekend air raids and ground assaults in Borno state, near the border with Chad.
“Air and land bombardments are continuing in different locations where terrorists have been reportedly sighted,” a defence ministry statement said.
Meanwhile, electoral officials in neighbouring Yobe state said the opposition All Progressives Congress swept every seat in local government elections that concluded peacefully, defying the Islamic extremists who are opposed to democracy and the ruling party’s insistence that it was too insecure to campaign.
School teacher Yohana Jafa noted that the attacks on minority Christian villages in the north east came hours after the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist network, Abubakar Shekau, “clearly stated that his war is against Christians”.
It was unclear if Shekau’s video statement and the attacks signal a new tactic by the extremists. Though his movement initially targeted government officials, Christians and Muslim leaders who spoke out against extremism, it has claimed attacks this year that have killed hundreds of Muslim civilians.
Other Islamic extremist groups have come to realise that the indiscriminate killing of Muslims is a strategic liability. That realisation is believed to be responsible for al-Shabab fighters from Somalia sparing Muslims in the spectacular attack on a Kenyan mall in September. Experts surmise that the killings of innocent Muslims have also led to a fracture within Nigeria’s Boko Haram, with a splinter group called Ansaru concentrating on kidnapping foreigners.
In Yobe, a member of president Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party said insurgents attacked the state’s second city of Potiskum on Friday, killing seven civilians the day before the vote.
The Democrats boycotted Saturday’s elections for 178 councillors and 17 chairmen, saying it was not safe to campaign. They had not been expected to win seats in the traditional opposition stronghold.
The Democrats disputed the Yobe electoral commission’s figures showing nearly 80% of 1.2 million registered voters cast ballots. Some reporters had noted a low turnout and the figure was surprising in a region where tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes.