Boko Haram fighters have killed at least 20 loggers, militia members and residents said on Friday , in the latest attack against civilians in Borno.

The attack happened on Monday when gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on a group of loggers collecting firewood at Kaje village , near the Borno state capital , Maiduguri.

“ They ( Boko Haram) killed 20 people in the attack . Fifteen others are missing and presumed kidnapped by the attackers, ” civilian militia leader Ibrahim Liman told AFP.

Details of the attack have been slow to emerge due to limited communications infrastructure after years of fighting in the remote region .

Kaje resident Shuaibu Sidi corroborated Liman ’ s account and said his brother was among the dead .

The federal government and military maintain that the Islamist militants, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, are on the verge of defeat .

The conflict , which began in 2009 , has killed more than 20 , 000 and forced some 2. 6 million others from their homes , triggering a dire humanitarian crisis in the region .

But despite clear military gains in major towns and cities, hard-to -reach rural communities remain vulnerable to attack .

On December 30 , 25 loggers were shot dead at Maiwa village , which is three kilometres ( nearly two miles) from Kaje , and three truck -loads of firewood was burned .

Liman said : “We believe the same gunmen behind the Maiwa attack were responsible for the Kaje attack .”

– Previous attacks –

The attackers were believed to have come from Boko Haram’ s main enclave in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno, which is accessible from the two logging sites, he added.

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Many of those displaced by the conflict are forced to rely on food handouts from aid agencies .

Others have turned to felling trees in the semi-desert region to sell as firewood and use the proceeds to buy food .

Boko Haram has increasingly targeted loggers in their armed campaign to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria .

They have accused them of spying for the military and the civilian militia , which assists troops with security.

At least 31 loggers have not been seen since January 2 and are believed to have been abducted near the town of Gamboru, on the border with Cameroon .

They had left the town to fetch firewood in a Boko Haram hotspot , 15 kilometres away, where 10 other loggers had been killed two weeks earlier.

In August three loggers were decapitated near Aisa-Wulomari village , some 40 kilometres from Maiduguri, as they returned to the city.

In April eight loggers were killed and their bodies burnt at Kayamla village , 10 kilometres from Maiduguri, as they collected firewood in the bush.20171025_061726 Boko Haram kill 20 loggers in Borno


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