Nigeria: Boko Haram Warns It Will Kill More After Farmer Massacre

People attend a funeral for those killed by suspected Boko Haram militants in Zaabarmar, N
AP Photo/Jossy Ola

The Islamic terror group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the massacre of at least 76 farmworkers in northeast Nigeria over the weekend, warning it will carry out similar atrocities if communities attempt to report the group to authorities.

As the grim search for the victims’ bodies continues, Boko Haram’s factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, confirmed the group was behind the killing of rice farmers in Borno State.

In a three-minute video, he said they had carried out the massacre because “the farmers arrested and handed one of its brothers to the Nigerian army.” He also warned that those who do the same will face similar reprisals in the future.

“The … message is on those who notoriously nab our brethren and hand them to the military or give them a clue on us, you should know that, unless you repent, what happened to your people is awaiting you,” he said.

Since Saturday, teams of local workers have attempted to locate the victims’ bodies, trudging through the expansive marshland on foot in search of remains.

“It is a tiring job because regular vehicles can’t move in the difficult terrain because they will definitely get stuck,” Abdullahi Umar, a member of the search team, told AFP.

There also remain disputes as to the true number of victims. State Gov. Babagana Zulum initially claimed there were just 43 fatalities, while the U.N humanitarian coordinator, Edward Kallon, suggested it was as many as 117 people.

According to a worker who spoke with Nigeria’s Daily Trust, most of the victims died after having their throats slit.

“We have recovered 43 corpses. The attackers slaughtered all of them,” the worker said. “As we speak, there is great disquiet and mourning in our communities.”

The chairman of the Rice Farmers Association in Zabarmari, Malam Hassan, similarly told the Trust his dismay over the senseless killings, adding that some of the victims were children.

“It is very sad for us that these people went to their farms to work, only to be attacked and killed in this manner,” he said. “So far, we have recovered 43 corpses, including children.”

Boko Haram, an affiliate of the Islamic State, has continued to wreak havoc and destruction across Nigeria for years since the government’s first claims, in 2015, that it had largely been defeated. On Monday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, appeared to blame the farmers for their own deaths, claiming they were in the area without government permission.

“Information from security agencies says that the Zabarmari marshlands are infested with land mines and movements in around those areas subject to military oversight. No one is delighted with the massacre in Zabarmari and there is nothing anybody will gain by playing blame games,” he said. “The question I tried to answer on BBC was: did the security sign off on the area as being free of mines and terrorists? The honest answer is, no.”

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