There seems to be no end in sight in the bloodletting by Boko Haram gunmen in the Nigerian north eastern state of Borno, as 19 new casualties were recorded early today.
Dressed in military uniform, Boko Haram gunmen, riding motor-cycles, made the attack near the Nigerian border with Cameroon.
Armed with Kalashnikovs, the Boko Haram militants were said to have blocked the highway near the town of Logumani, 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border, shooting and hacking to death 19 motorists and burning three trucks, they said.
“We have recovered 19 dead bodies from the scene of the attack by Boko Haram gunmen,” Musa Abur, leader of a civilian vigilante group in the area told AFP.
“Five of the victims, who included two truck drivers and their assistants, were shot dead while the rest were slaughtered,” he said.
He said the gunmen had attacked the border town of Gamboru Ngala near Logumani late Friday but were repelled by soldiers and local vigilantes.
A passenger who survived the attack gave a similar account.
“We were asked to get out of our vehicles and lie face down by nine men dressed as soldiers who blocked the road around 5:00 am,” the man who gave his name as Buba told AFP.
“They shot dead five people and went about slaughtering 14 others before someone called them on the phone that soldiers were heading their way,” he said.
“They abandoned the rest of us and sped into the bush on their motorcycles,” added Buba, who was shot in the leg.
He said the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram.
“We knew they were Boko Haram from their appearance. Soldiers don’t wear beards but some of the gunmen were bearded,” he said.
“Everyone in this area knows Boko Haram is on the prowl, raiding villages and attacking vehicles. It has become a common occurrence.”
The military authorities in the region could not be immediately reached for comment.
The phone network has been switched off in much of the northeast since emergency measures were declared mid-May at the start of a military offensive against the insurgents.
Defence officials say the offensive against Boko Haram has decimated the group and scattered its fighters across remote parts of the northeast, the insurgents’ traditional stronghold.
Military authorities have encouraged the formation of vigilante groups to help flush out the Islamists. But the vigilante groups were not armed with guns.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram has stepped up deadly attacks on civilians and schools in reprisals against vigilantes cooperating with the military.