Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, may have killed up to 148 people and “at least” 97 in northeastern Borno State, specifically targeting evening prayers by Muslims in order to maximize their death toll.
The Agence-France Presse is reporting that 97 is the lowest estimate of the number of dead in the terrorist group’s home province. That figure may be the result of only one attack on the Borno village of Kukawa, where the terrorists raided homes and set corpses on fire. One eyewitness estimated that more than 50 Boko Haram jihadists attacked the village at once, destroying entirely neighborhoods and leaving whole families dead.
Kukawa lies near Lake Chad, known to be a contentious area thanks to Boko Haram. The group has used islands in the lake the hide and attacked a number of villages located on the lake itself. A military figure confirmed to Reuters the 97 death figure, adding that “many people were killed” and the death toll may ultimately “be very high.”
Nigerian newspaper Vanguard notes, however, that this death toll is the product of only one of two Boko Haram attacks in the last 24 hours. In a separate incident, Boko Haram jihadists attacked two separate mosques during evening prayers, when the religious buildings would be at their most full, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. Witnesses tell Vanguard that “Boko Haram gunmen killed 48 men and injured 11 others in the attack,” and appeared to have waited for the sun to go down so that the villagers would be preparing to break their Ramadan fast for the day. “The terrorists first descended on Muslim worshippers in various mosques who were observing the Maghrib prayer shortly after breaking their fast,” said one witness, “[and] opened fire on the worshippers who were mostly men and young children.” Vanguard quotes a third witness noting that Boko Haram jihadists were attacking “indiscriminately” at women who were working to prepare food for the fast, possibly because they were most vulnerable.
Reuters estimates that 1.5 million people have been displaced by the jihadist group, in addition to thousands killed in similar raids, used as suicide bombers and child soldiers, or killed in the process of abduction. The group has expanded its reach in the past year out of Nigeria into Niger and Chad, both countries that have joined a military coalition designed to eradicate the group.
Borno state, the state in which Boko Haram was founded, is now also home to the Nigerian military headquarters, thanks to an initiative by recently-elected President Muhammadu Buhari.