Boko Haram gunmen have mounted their first attacks since Nigeria’s government declared them “technically” defeated, killing seven people in a raid and suicide bombing, residents told AFP on Wednesday.
The attacks happened on Tuesday in the northeastern state of Borno, near the Islamists’ Sambisa Forest hideout, where the army is looking to flush out remnants of the rebel group.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who has made crushing the rebellion a priority, in December said a sustained counter-offensive had reduced the group’s ability to strike effectively.
The first attack happened in Izgeki village, said one resident, who gave his name as Isyaku, from the town of Mubi in neighbouring Adamawa state.
“I received information from my relatives who fled the attack… that some Boko Haram gunmen on bicycles attacked Izgeki across the river from Izghe on Tuesday morning where they killed two people.
“The attack forced villagers to cross the river into Izghe. The gunmen pursued them. One of them who had a suicide belt on him blew himself up near the market, killing five people.”
Izghe was previously attacked in February 2014 where more than 100 people were killed as the rebels torched homes, opened fire and set off explosives.
Thousands of residents fled the attack into Adamawa towards the town of Madagali and elsewhere but following the army’s recapture of territory, some managed to return and begin reconstruction.
Izghe is in the district of Gwoza, which Boko Haram captured in August 2014 and which the group’s shadowy leader Abubakar Shekau declared the centre of its self-styled caliphate.
Ayuba Chibok, an elder in the town of the same name, said there was also an attack in the nearby village of Nchiha at about 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Tuesday.
“Luckily no-one was hurt but they (Boko Haram gunmen) looted food and burnt a large part of the village,” he added. Residents managed to flee.
Boko Haram kidnapped some 276 girls from their school in Chibok in April 2014 in a daring raid that captured world attention. Fifty seven escaped soon afterwards but 219 are still being held.