Bloody fighting has broken out in north-central Africa, with Islamist group Boko Haram reportedly “forcefully acquiring wives”.
Boko Haram fighters have reportedly hoisted their Islamist flag in a regional district of the Niger State and seized the wives of fleeing residents.
“I am confirming that we have Boko Haram elements in Niger State, around Kaure,” Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello said.
“They have taken over the territory … They have installed their flag.”
He said 3000 people have been ousted from their communities by Boko Haram and other criminal gangs.
“Their towns have been taken over by bandits and Boko Haram elements …
“Their wives have been seized from them and forcefully attached to Boko Haram members,” CNN quoted the governor as saying.
It comes amid reports that at least 31 Nigerian soldiers were killed when jihadists ambushed a military convoy escorting weapons and overran a base in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state on Monday.
Fighting between the army and jihadists in the Lake Chad region also left at least 12 Chadian soldiers dead on Tuesday, a provincial governor told AFP.
Boko Haram is an Islamist insurgency based primarily in northern Nigeria that aims to create a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia law.
Founded in 2002, the group has been aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and employs brutal terror tactics.
The group infamously kidnapped 276 mostly Christian schoolgirls from Chibo in 2014. Some were forced to convert to Islam and sex slavery. An unknown number of girls managed to escape however at least 100 are still missing.
The Nigerian army said on Sunday that it had been engaged in hours of intense battles on Sunday. It said warplanes were deployed. The army officially denied the death toll of 31 and said its forces had suffered a lower toll of six soldiers and one officer killed.
Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province attacked a convoy with rocket-propelled grenades on Sunday in the town of Mainok outside the regional capital Maiduguri before storming the nearby base, two military officers told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We lost 31 soldiers, including their commander who was a lieutenant colonel, in the ambush by the terrorists,” one officer said about the attack which happened around 1100 GMT on Sunday.
The convoy was transporting weapons to Maiduguri when it came under attack, said a second officer who gave a similar toll.
“The terrorists came in several trucks, including four MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles) and engaged the convoy in a fierce battle,” the second officer said.
The militants overwhelmed soldiers, leading to the “colossal loss” of troops, he said.
“We lost a lot of men in a very gruesome way.” The jihadists seized weapons and two MRAPs in the attack before overrunning and partially burning the base outside the town, the officers said.
Later Nigerian army spokesman Mohammed Yerima issued a statement saying troops deployed in Mainok “came under multi-directional attacks” by jihadists on foot as well as on trucks mounted with guns.
He said the firefight lasted “several hours” and that “scores” of fighters were killed while “a number of their gun trucks destroyed.”
The air force deployed Alpha jets and helicopter gunships to the scene, he added.
Mr Yerima said one officer and six soldiers died while five others were wounded but added: “Currently, troops are in full control of Mainok.”
Mainok, about 50km from Maiduguri, has been repeatedly targeted by the jihadists who have waged a decade-long jihadist insurgency in the region, killing 36,000 people and displacing around two million from their homes.
– with AFP