At Least 15 Are Reported Killed in Nigeria

The Associated Press/December 29, 2012

Maiduguri, Nigeria - Gunmen suspected of belonging to a radical Islamist sect attacked a village in northeast Nigeria, tying up men, women and children before slitting their throats and killing at least 15, witnesses said Saturday.

The assault took place Friday morning in Musari, a village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the city where the sect known as Boko Haram first began its campaign of shootings and car bombings against Nigeria's weak central government. The gunmen shouted religious slogans and later ordered those present to be gathered into a group, said Mshelia Inusa, a primary-school teacher in the village.

"We heard some people chanting: 'God is great! God is great!' amid sounds of banging on doors of houses at about 1 a.m.," he said. "A voice was heard ordering people to be slaughtered, and also voices of children were heard screaming."

Mr. Inusa said he and others later saw corpses with their hands tied behind their backs and their throats cut.

Later Friday morning, an ambulance arrived at the State Specialists Hospital in Maiduguri, accompanied by a group of military vehicles, a security guard said. Agitated soldiers ordered people away, but the guard said he had counted at least 15 bodies being brought into the hospital's morgue.

The guard spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fears of angering either the military or the sect.

Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, a military spokesman, later issued a statement saying that only five people had been killed in the village during the attack. However, military and police officials routinely play down casualty figures because they are under increasing pressure from their superiors to minimize the perceived effects of the continuing attacks.

Boko Haram, which speaks to journalists through conference calls at times of its choosing, could not be immediately reached for comment on Saturday. However, the attack mirrored other assaults carried out by the group as it expands its operations outside cities in the northeast into rural towns and villages, where the security presence remains light and contact with the outside world remains difficult. The sect has destroyed a number of cellphone towers recently.

The sect, whose name means Western Education Is Sacrilege in the Hausa language of Muslim northern Nigeria, wants the nation to enact strict Shariah law and release the group's imprisoned members. Despite a heavy military and police presence, the sect's adherents have continued to initiate frequent attacks.

More than 780 people have been killed in Boko Haram attacks so far this year, according to an Associated Press count, making 2012 the worst year of violence attributed to the group. Boko Haram also has loose connections with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Shabab of Somalia, according to Western military officials and diplomats.

Gunmen suspected of being Boko Haram members also attacked another village on Friday, in Adamawa State on the border with Cameroon. Witnesses said that attack focused on the town of Maiha. At least 35 prisoners were released from a prison in the attack, though 11 were later recaptured, a police spokesman, Mohammed Ibrahim, said Saturday.

Mr. Ibrahim said a civilian and a police officer were killed during the fighting.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 30, 2012, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: At Least 15 Are Reported Killed in Nigeria.

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