Members of the Nigerian armed group Boko Haram are suspected of killing 10 Christians in northeastern Nigeria.
Sunday’s attack happened in a village called Chibok, in a remote part of Borno state, at the heart of a violent campaign led by Boko Haram, which is fighting Western influence and wants to form an Islamic state in Nigeria’s north.
“Suspected Boko Haram came at night and set people’s houses on fire before killing their victims,” said Nuhu Clark, a former councillor of the village who escaped the attack.
He said he counted 10 bodies afterwards.
A local government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “the attackers came in around 9pm chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’, which made us suspect they are Boko Haram. They moved into selected homes in the predominantly Christian part of the town and slaughtered 10 people like sheep”.
A police spokesman said they were aware of the incident but were still trying to confirm casualties.
Fear in Maiduguri
Armed fighters have killed hundreds of people since launching a rebellion against the government in 2009, the usual targets being security forces, government officials or Christians, whom Boko Haram sees as infidels.
Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno province, says there is fear among the people in the area.
“People are on edge and are constantly worried about violence. Maiduguri has been at the epicentre of violence, with criminal acts perpetrated by members of Boko Haram for at least two years now,” she said.
“Almost on a daily basis we found, while on the ground there, that people witnessed suicide attacks, car bombings, churches being attacked, and major fighting between the armed group and a joint task force set up to fight Boko Haram.”
In another development, security forces said on Sunday they had killed a senior Boko Haram commander, Mohammed Ibrahim, one of several who had a bounty placed on his head last week of 25 million naira ($158,900) in his case.
“He was killed in an operation in Gwange ward [Borno state] along with two of his unit commanders,” a spokesman for joint military and police forces in Borno state, Lieutenant-Colonel Sagir Musa, said.
Attacks on Christians seem calculated to ignite sectarian tensions in Africa’s most populous nation, which is split roughly evenly between Muslims and Christians.
They mostly live side by side in peace, although bouts of violence between the communities sometimes flare up.
The US has designated three of Boko Haram’s senior members as terrorists.
Human Rights Watch has said about 3,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Boko Haram and security forces since its campaign intensified in 2010.