Eighty-seven dead in Boko Haram attack on Nigerian town

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Originally published September 23, 2013

At least 87 people were killed when Boko Haram militants attacked a town in Nigeria's north-eastern Borno state on Tuesday (September 17), according to local officials. Witnesses said the militants disguised themselves in military uniforms and drove into the town of Benisheik in some 20 pick ups trucks.

They razed dozens of buildings by attacking people and setting fires, while also setting up checkpoints outside of town to shoot dead those who tried to flee.

Reports say the militants were heavily armed, even possessing "anti-aircraft guns".

Boko Haram wants to create an Islamic state across Nigeria and has waged a deadly insurgency since 2009. A state of emergency was declared in Borno and two neighbouring states in May, and communications with the area have been severely disrupted. Meanwhile, attacks have increased recently despite a massive military deployment to the worst-affected areas.

Officials have encouraged local vigilante groups to fight back, but dozens of volunteers have been killed in recent weeks.

Borno state governor Kashim Shettima, who visited the scene of the attack on Thursday, described the killings as "barbaric and un-Islamic." He pledged financial assistance to relatives of the victims.

The town of Benisheik lies 70 km (45 miles) west of the state capital of Maiduguri, where Boko Haram was founded in 2002.

Observers says Boko Haram may be taking revenge on vigilante groups. This has added to worries that encouraging vigilantes to fight back may escalate violence in the area.

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