KANO: At least 12 loggers were killed in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state near the border with Cameroon when their vehicle hit a landmine in an area where Boko Haram jihadists are active, two non-governmental organisations working in the region said today.
The loggers were on their way to the bush to collect firewood when the flat-bed vehicle conveying them rolled over a mine suspected to have been planted by Boko Haram jihadists on the highway outside Pulka village, the NGOs said in two reports seen by AFP on the incident, which happened on Monday.
Northeast Nigeria is at the heart of a more than decade-long jihadist insurgency where militants still target rural areas even after they have been pushed back from the large swathes of land they controlled at the height of the conflict.
“Men suspected to be Boko Haram…planted explosive…and killed 12 people while many were injured along Pulka to Gwoza route,” one of the reports read.
According to the other report, which gave the same toll, seven other loggers were injured “out of which three are very critical and have been evacuated to Maiduguri for further medical attention”.
The Nigerian security forces did not respond to a request for confirmation of the blast.
There has been a surge in mine explosions targeting civilian convoys recently that have been blamed on jihadists.
Boko Haram seized Gwoza in July 2014, making it the headquarters of their so-called caliphate. Although it was retaken by Nigerian troops in March 2015, the jihadists still raid nearby villages from hideouts in the mountains along the border with Cameroon.
Residents of villages in the area fled into Gwoza and nearby Pulka where they live in camps under military protection.
Troops conduct patrols in the area to deter the militants from killing or abducting residents who venture into the bush, especially women who collect acacia fruits and firewood.
Boko Haram and the rival Islamic State West Africa Province are known to target loggers, farmers, and herders, accusing them of spying on them for troops and anti-jihadist militia fighting them.
At least 40,000 people have been killed and more than two million others displaced since the hardline Islamist group began a rebellion in 2009. The insurgency spread into neighbouring Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, prompting the creation of a regional military force to fight the militants.