Three civilian vigilantes on their way to fight Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria were killed and seven others injured when their vehicle hit a landmine, residents told AFP on Tuesday.
The vigilantes from Chul village in Borno state were moving on Monday evening to battle Boko Haram militants who had stormed the neighbouring village of Huyum when the accident occurred.
“We lost three of our colleagues to a roadside bomb yesterday evening on their way to repel Boko Haram in Huyum,” said Adamu Galadima, a vigilante in the town of Askira Uba.
“The vigilantes were approaching Huyum, which was under Boko Haram attack, when the front tyre of their vehicle hit a bomb planted by the attackers”, said Galadima, who attended the victims’ funerals.
Boko Haram fighters had anticipated that soldiers from Askira or vigilantes from nearby hamlets, would use the roads and planted bombs to slow them down, said Huyum resident Peter Malgwui.
“Vigilantes from Chul heard of the attack and rushed to counter the Boko Haram gunmen when they hit the bomb, killing three and injuring seven,” added Malgwui, who fled following the attack.
Boko Haram gunmen travelling in an open van attacked Huyum at about 7:30 pm firing indiscriminately and forcing residents to flee into the bush, he said.
A woman was shot dead in the attack while a girl was shot and injured in the leg, he added. The gunmen were believed to have come from nearby Sambisa forest, which has long been Boko Haram’s enclave and base.
On June 8 last year Boko Haram killed 15 in a sweeping raid on Huyum, torching the entire farming village using petrol after looting food supplies and livestock.
Months later, residents who fled that attack began returning to the village to rebuild their homes following a series of successes by the military against Boko Haram.
Nigeria maintains the sustained counter-offensive has left Boko Haram “technically” defeated but sporadic attacks continue, including in northern Cameroon.