Residents of a village in northeastern Nigeria where suspected Islamic extremists gunned down 47 worshippers praying in a mosque demanded on Tuesday that the government give them weapons to defend themselves.
Earlier reports about Sunday’s attack in Konduga village had given a lower death toll, 44. Another 12 civilians died in a simultaneous attack on a nearby village, security agents said.
The violence has been blamed on the Boko Haram terrorist network, and district head Yale Zannah Masu told The Associated Press that his village of Konduga was besieged for hours by “terrorists” — including women who set ablaze 51 homes.
Terrorist attacks by women would be unusual in Nigeria, but its military has reported arresting suspected women members of the banned Boko Haram as well as male suspects disguised in women’s robes and veils.
Zannah Masu spoke during a visit to Konduga by governor of Borno state, Kashim Shetimma, who drove under military escort the 35 kilometers (22 miles) from his base in the state capital, Maiduguri, to the nearly deserted village.
He was met by a few enraged people who complained bitterly that the government had sent too few troops to protect them.
“We suffered this pain and loss because there is limited number of soldiers here,” Zannah Masu told Shetimma.
Others said the government needs to give them guns for self-defense.
The governor offered free medical treatment for the 39 wounded people described by Zannah Masu and 250,000 naira ($1,560) for each bereaved family.
Sunday’s violence was the latest in a slew of attacks blamed on religious extremists wanting to oust the government and install strict Islamic law throughout the nation of more than 160 million people. The country is about equally divided between a predominantly Muslim north and mainly Christian south.
On Tuesday, Britain’s Foreign Office minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, strongly condemned the Konduga attack.
“Attacking innocent people in a place of worship is a contemptible and cowardly act,” he said in a statement. He said Britain “stands with the government and people of Nigeria as they seek to reduce violence in the northeast of the country.”
There was no immediate comment from the Nigerian government, which has imposed a state of emergency in three northeastern states covering one-sixth of the country and deployed thousands more troops to try to put down the Islamic uprising that poses the greatest threat in years to security and unity in Africa’s largest oil producer.
Attackers wearing Nigerian army camouflage fatigues struck under cover of darkness as residents were saying their dawn prayers at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, villagers said.
Nigeria’s war is not Muslims against Christian. Boko Haram — the name means “Western education is forbidden” — has killed more Muslims than Christians, according to officials, attacking mosques and clerics that have spoken out against religious extremism.
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