Islamists kill at least eight in Damasak, Nigeria, and hundreds flee to Niger

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Suspected Islamists attacked the northeastern Nigerian border town of Damasak, killing at least eight people and fled hundreds to neighboring Niger, local officials and a resident said on Wednesday.

No group took responsibility, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State Province of West Africa, are carrying out attacks in the northeast.

Around 2 million people have fled their homes and 30,000 have been killed since Boko Haram started its uprising in 2009 to create an Islamic state in the region.

Nigeria, which has the largest economy in Africa, faces a number of security challenges. Authorities are battling the uprising, a spate of school kidnappings in the northwest and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

The insurgents attacked Damasak, a few kilometers from the border with Niger, at around 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Three soldiers spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Ten residents were killed in attacks on Tuesday. Our people have fled to villages in Niger while some are trapped in the bush, ”local government official Bukar Mustapha told Reuters on Wednesday. “Boko Haram men are still in Damasak,” he said.

Resident Mustapha Gashigar said eight people were buried but other bodies were not recovered and 17 were seriously injured. He said hundreds of people fled Damasak.

Two local government officials, who refused to be named, said the insurgents sporadically fired anti-aircraft guns at vehicles.

A military spokesman did not immediately respond to comments. A Borno government spokesman did not respond to text messages and phone calls for comment.

Damasak was captured by Boko Haram in late 2014, but was liberated by troops from Nigeria and neighboring countries early the following year.

Boko Haram gained worldwide fame for kidnapping 270 girls from a school in the northeastern city of Chibok in 2014. Around 100 of the school girls were never found.

Wednesday marked the seventh anniversary of the mass kidnapping. Borno Governor Babagana Umara Zulum said in a statement that he had not lost hope that those who were still missing would return safely.

Reporting from Maiduguri Newsroom; Writing Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Alison Williams

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