ZABARMARI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Villagers in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state on Sunday buried 43 farmers killed in an attack by suspected Islamist militants while security forces searched for dozens still missing.
Around 30 of the men were beheaded in the attack, which began on Saturday morning in the village of Zabarmari, while residents said 70 people in all are feared dead.
While there was no claim of responsibility, such massacres have been carried out in the past by Boko Haram or the Islamic State West Africa Province which are both active in the area, where Islamic militants have killed at least 30,000 people.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the killings and said “the entire country is hurt”.
In Zabarmari, dozens of mourners surrounded the bodies, which were wrapped in white burial shrouds and placed on wooden pallets, as clerics led prayers for the deceased.
One resident and Amnesty International said 10 women were among those missing.
United Nations humanitarian coordinator Edward Kallon said he was “outraged and horrified” by “the most violent direct attack” against civilians this year.
The U.N. estimated that at least 110 people were killed across the Jere local government area of Borno state.
Borno state governor Babagana Zulum, speaking at the burials, called on the federal government to recruit more soldiers, Civilian Joint Task Force members and civil defence fighters to protect farmers.
“In one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation, on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” he said.
Food prices in Nigeria have risen dramatically over the past year, driven by flooding, border closures and insecurity in some food-producing areas.
(Additional reporting by Maiduguri newsroom and Adewale Kolawole; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Frances Kerry and Alexander Smith)