In the most recent violence to engulf the area, ISWAP Fighters attacked an army base and a town in northeast Nigeria, killing soldiers and civilians, according to residents and security sources on Sunday.
Late on Friday and early on Saturday, fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, attacked the town of Malam Fatori in the Abadam area while riding vehicles armed with machineguns.
“ISWAP terrorists attacked Malam Fatori and caused huge destruction which we are working to quantify,” a military officer told reporters.
“They attacked the military base and engaged troops in a fight while a second group went on a killing spree and arson in the town,” said the officer who asked not to be identified.
According to local Buji Garwa, the initial attempt near the Niger border occurred Friday at dusk and resulted in a hard clash with soldiers who repelled the attack.
During a dawn attack on the base and the town on Saturday, the insurgents threw explosives, killed locals, and left others who were trying to flee in a river to perish.
“It is not clear how many people were killed because we all fled the town and are now gradually returning to assess the damage,” Garwa said, adding that a large part of the town had been set afire.
“We have started combing the bushes and picking (up) bodies of those killed and searching along the river banks to find those washed to the shores,” he said.
Another resident, Baitu Madari, said she had counted a dozen people who were killed in her neighbourhood.
“I have no idea of the number of the dead bodies recovered in other parts of town. The destruction is really huge,” she said.
According to an intelligence officer, the attackers came from nearby Kamuya village. “Kamuya is the largest ISWAP camp in Lake Chad area which is just eight kilometres (five miles) from Malam Fatori,” the source said.
“All the previous unsuccessful attacks on Malam Fatori were launched from Kamuya which is well fortified with mines and heavy weapons,” he added.
On the outskirts of Lake Chad, 200 kilometres from the regional capital Maiduguri, Malam Fatori was taken over by Boko Haram insurgents in 2014 but was recaptured by the military in 2015.
To fend off attacks from ISWAP, which broke away from Boko Haram in 2016 and converted Lake Chad into a bulwark, a base was built in the town.
Despite worries from relief organisations, the governor of Borno state ordered the return of thousands of refugees to Malam Fatori in March who had fled to Maiduguri and the neighboring country of Niger.
Over 40,000 people have been killed and about two million people have been displaced in the northeast by the Islamist struggle that started in 2009.
The violence has spilled into neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military force to fight the insurgents.
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