“The men, 21 of them, were stopped at Bultaram (village) by gunmen we believe are Boko Haram who shot them dead,” said Baba Nuhu, an official with the Gujba local government in Yobe state.
Nuhu and Haruna Maram, the brother of one of the victims, spoke to AFP from Yobe’s capital Damaturu, where many Gujba residents have fled to seek refuge from Boko Haram violence.
“My brother and 20 others wanted to bring back their grains to augment their lean food supplies to feed their families,” Maram said.
“Unfortunately, they were killed by (the) same Boko Haram we ran away from.”
Gujba is one of a handful of districts in Yobe that Boko Haram captured during a sweeping offensive last year.
The area has been hit by waves of attacks through the six-year Islamist uprising, including a massacre at an agricultural college in 2013 that targeted students sleeping their dormitories.
Nigeria’s military has claimed a series of successes against Boko Haram in an operation launched in February with neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Scores of towns previously under rebel control have reportedly been liberated.
Nigeria’s military and outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan have encouraged those displaced by the uprising to return home, declaring much of the northeast safe for resettlement.
But community leaders in the embattled region have warned civilians are still at risk of Islamist attacks, especially those returning to remote areas like Gujba where the military’s deployment has typically been thin.
Security experts have cautioned that the Islamists are far from defeated and are still capable of launching hit-and-run attacks. – AFP