Boko Haram gunmen on horseback kill 79 in trio of attacks, locals say

Updated 7:08 PM EDT, Mon August 31, 2015

Story highlights

Residents and militia leaders: Gunmen on horseback enter a northeast Nigerian village and kill 68

Militants later kill an imam in another village, as well as open fire at a Nigerian mosque

Locals blame Boko Haram, which has been behind attacks, bombings and mass kidnappings

CNN —  

Boko Haram militants have unleashed another torrent of violence in northeast Nigeria, killing 79 people in three recent attacks there, residents and local militia said.

In the first and deadliest attack late Friday, gunmen entered the village of Baanu – about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state – and shot dead 68 people.

The gunmen seemingly shot indiscriminately, spurring survivors to run for their lives into the bush, according to residents and vigilantes, who are local militia assisting the Nigerian military in going after Boko Haram.

The next attack happened around 2 p.m. (9 a.m. ET) Saturday in Hambagda village in Borno state’s Gwoza district, 80 miles from Maiduguri and a few miles from Boko Haram’s de facto capital.

Militants, again on horseback, unloaded on worshipers at a mosque – leaving seven dead and five more wounded, locals and militia leaders said.

Another attack about five hours later in in the village of Karnuwa, which is close to Baanu, resulted in the deaths of the village’s imam, his son and two neighbors.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for any of the bloodshed.

Locals were quick to point the finger at Boko Haram, a militant group tied to a large number of horrific incidents in recent years in Borno and surrounding states.

Boko Haram’s stated aim is to impose a strict enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

Its militants haven’t waged a traditional military campaign to do this. Instead, the reviled terrorist group has resorted to tactics like bombing marketplaces, churches, mosques and other public gathering spots.

Boko Haram has also conducted mass kidnappings, the most notorious being last year’s abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in the northeastern city of Chibok. Those girls’ fate remains a mystery.