MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Islamic extremist rebels have killed at least seven people in an attack in northeast Borno state in Nigeria, witnesses told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The rebels attacked Kautukari village in the Chibok area of Borno on Tuesday evening, said residents. The attack happened at the same time that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in the state to meet with survivors of jihadi violence.
The Chibok area is 115 kilometers (71 miles) away from Maiduguri, the state capital, where Guterres met with former militants being reintegrated back into the society and thousands of people displaced by the insurgency.
“They came in large number with superior firepower (and) took over the community,” said Hassan Chibok, a community leader. Troops from a nearby military base were deployed to repel the attack but “the damage had been done,” Chibok said, adding that “casualties are up to 10.”
Another resident Yana Galang said at least seven people were killed in the latest violence before the Nigerian military intervened.
Nigerian police did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the attack.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, continues to grapple with a 10-year-old insurgency in the northeast by Islamic extremist rebels of Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province. The extremists are fighting to establish Shariah law and to stop Western education.
More than 35,000 people have died and millions have been displaced by the extremist violence, according to the U.N. Development Program.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said earlier this week that the war against the extremists is “approaching its conclusion,” citing continued military airstrikes and the mass defection of thousands of the fighters, some of whom analysts say are laying down their arms because of infighting within the jihadi group.
The violence however continues in border communities and areas closer to the Lake Chad region, the stronghold of the Islamic State-linked group, ISWAP.
“Things are getting worse” in Kautukari village in Chibok and adjourning areas closer to the forest, said community leader Chibok, saying the extremists’ presence near the forest is a contributing factor.