Militants from the Boko Haram Islamic terror group slit the throats of at least 70 farmers Saturday in Borno State, northeast Nigeria, according to local reports.
Eyewitnesses to the attack said the farmers “were rounded up and summarily slaughtered by the armed insurgents” just as residents of the state were voting to elect local government council officials for the first time in 13 years.
The former leader of the Borno Farmers Union, Hassan Zabarmari, said the farmers were working in rice fields in the Garin Kwashebe village of Borno State when members of the terror group attacked them.
“It was a sad incident that took place at about 11 a.m today,” Mr. Zabarmari said Saturday. “The farmers were attacked at the Garin-Kwashebe rice field, and according to reports reaching us since afternoon, about 40 of them were killed.”
The death toll of the massacre was initially reported as 43 victims but on Sunday, Borno State Gov. Babagana Umara Zulum adjusted the figure, noting that the number of confirmed dead had risen to 70.
According to Ahmed Satomi, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, the militants likely attacked the farmers in retaliation, because on Friday they had disarmed and arrested a Boko Haram gunman who had been tormenting them.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari extended his condolences to the victims of the attack and their families, describing the jihadist killings as “senseless.”
“I condemn the killing of our hardworking farmers by terrorists in Borno State. The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings,” Mr. Buhari said. “My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls rest in peace.”
Buhari, who has faced criticism for failing to stop the ongoing Islamist terror attacks, said his government is providing the armed forces with all the support needed “to protect the country’s population and its territory.”
Boko Haram launched a bloody insurgency in 2009 in northeastern Nigeria, killing more than 30,000 people and displacing another 3 million in just over a decade, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.