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Militants take hundreds hostage in northeastern Nigeria

The file photo shows Nigerian army soldiers on the back of a vehicle in Damboa, Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. (By AFP)

Daesh-linked militants have taken hundreds of hostages after overrunning a town in northeastern Nigeria.

Vigilante militia leader Babakura Kolo said on Wednesday that militants from the so-called West Africa Province (ISWAP) raided the town of Kukawa in Borno State late on Tuesday, seizing the residents, who had just returned to their homes after spending nearly two years in displacement camps in the regional capital, Maiduguri.

“The terrorists attacked the town in 22 trucks around 4:00 pm (16:00 GMT) yesterday and engaged soldiers guarding the town in a fierce battle,” he said.

The residents had returned to the town in early August under military escort on the orders of Borno State authorities. They had fled their homes following a bloody attack in November 2018.

A local chief who accompanied the residents to the town said the people had returned with the hope of cultivating their farmlands but had now ended up in the hands of the terrorists.

“We don’t know what they would do to them but I hope they don’t harm them,” said the chief, who spoke to AFP anonymously.

An unnamed security source who confirmed the incident to AFP said fighter jets were deployed from Maiduguri on Wednesday to “tackle the situation,” without giving any further details.

In the last two years, local authorities have been encouraging the displaced people who have fled due to an upsurge in violence in northeastern Nigeria to return home.

Residents have been returned to five major towns since 2018, where they are confined under military protection, with trenches dug around to try to fend off terrorist attacks.

Despite the fortifications, terrorist have continued to launch attacks.

ISWAP is a splinter group of the Boko Haram terrorist group.

The two groups have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more in the northeastern areas of Nigeria.

The violence has spilled over into the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, which have created a joint military force to fight the terrorists.

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