The governor of Nigeria’s Borno state has urged the military to better defend a town where suspected Islamic extremists killed more than 30 people who had been left to sleep in their cars over the weekend after being locked outside the city gate.
Gov. Babagana Zulum visited the scene Monday where some of the cars were still smoking with corpses inside them. The violence Sunday night marked the sixth time since June that the town of Auno had come under attack by suspected Boko Haram militants.
While the governor put the death toll at 30, the military said only 10 people had died and that the motorists had defied a military warning that the highway would be closed at 5 p.m.
The governor accused the military of failing to protect the stranded travelers and pleaded again for soldiers to re-establish a base there.
“The fact is that we have made several attempts for the Nigeria military to establish their unit in Auno but nothing was done,” he said. “As soon as it is 5 o’clock and they closed up their gate, they abandon the people and move over to Maiduguri,” the capital of the northeastern state.
Witnesses said the locked-out travelers came under attack around 10 p.m. and the assault lasted 45 minutes.
“We heard the shouting of people amidst shootings and we were all scared by it,” Auno resident Yunusa Abdullahi said. “It was late, we didn’t know where to run.”
Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi expressed “profound sadness” over the attack but emphasized that the military needs the highway closed at night so that it can conduct its counterinsurgency campaign against Boko Haram.
“The public must understand, the soldiers expected to go on night patrols in the bushes cannot again be drawn to the road to protect vehicles of people that refused to obey the law,” he said.
“It is not safe to be lining up such a large number of vehicles in this village especially knowing the wicked intentions of Boko Haram,” he added.