Rebel fighters have killed at least seven people in an attack in northeast Borno State in Nigeria, witnesses have told The Associated Press.
The rebels attacked Kautukari village in the Chibok area of Borno on Tuesday evening, residents said on Wednesday. The attack happened at the same time that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in the state to meet with survivors of violence by the armed group Boko Haram.
The Chibok area is 115km (71 miles) from Maiduguri, the state capital, where Guterres met with former fighters being reintegrated into society and thousands of people displaced by the armed groups.
“They came in large number with superior firepower (and) took over the community,” said Hassan Chibok, a community leader. Troops from a nearby military base were deployed to repel the attack but “the damage had been done,” Chibok said, adding that “casualties are up to 10.”
Another resident, Yana Galang, said at least seven people were killed in the latest violence before the Nigerian military intervened.
Nigerian police did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation of the attack.
Since 2009, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has been grappling with attacks in the northeast by armed groups like Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The groups are fighting to establish Sharia law and to stop Western education.
More than 35,000 people have died and millions have been displaced by the violence, according to the UN Development Program.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said earlier this week that the war against the groups is “approaching its conclusion”, citing continued military attacks and the mass defection of thousands of the fighters, some of whom analysts say are laying down their arms because of infighting within the group.
The violence however continues in border communities and areas closer to the Lake Chad region, the stronghold of the Islamic State-linked group, ISWAP.
“Things are getting worse” in Kautukari village and adjourning areas closer to the forest, said community leader Chibok, saying the fighters’ presence near the forest is a contributing factor.