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#ZabarmariMassacre: More Farmers Missing, Death Toll May Rise

The number of people killed by Boko Haram on Saturday in Zabarmari, a rice farming community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, may increase, HumAngle can report.

HumAngle reported on Saturday that members of the terrorist group beheaded 43 farmers in the famous rice-farming town.

A member of the civilian vigilante group, however, told our reporter dozens of farmers were still missing. He said a search and rescue exercise for survivors and other deceased victims remained a dangerous task as Boko Haram fighters operated a few kilometres from Zabarmari general area.

Zabarmari is located less than 20 kilometres from the Counter-Insurgency Operation Lafiya Dole command centre in Maiduguri, the state capital.

Meanwhile, the community buried some of the victims of the massacre on Sunday morning as other victims remained unaccounted for.

The recovered bodies were buried in accordance with Islamic rites and search parties were still combing for more victims at the time of the burial.

According to Amnesty International, 16 of the victims were Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) resident in Farm Centre IDPs Camp. Ten women working in Kwashabe rice farm were still missing after the attack, villagers said.

HumAngle has learned that the identification of victims was a challenge due to the decapitation of their bodies and the number of victims of the massacre is expected to rise.

Babagana Zulum, Governor of Borno State, was present during the burial and provided financial assistance to some of the bereaved families.

The governor also called for the recruitment of more locals into the military and other security agencies to support boots on the ground and capacity of the agro rangers.

“It is disheartening that more than 40 people were slaughtered while they were working on their farmlands. Our people are in very difficult situations; they are in two different extreme conditions. 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,” Zulum said, addressing journalists.

“This is very sad. We are still appealing to the Federal Government to ensure recruitment of more of our youths in the CJTF and hunters into the Nigerian military and the Civil Defence so that they can form part of the agro rangers that will protect farmers.”

The governor added that the residents of the state would not lose hope as they have to “remain optimistic about ending the insurgency”.

Zabarmari is known to be within the sphere of influence of Boko Haram’s parent group, the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (JAS). However, it’s splinter Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction has also conducted an attack in the town.

The latter group is notorious for targeting farmers cultivating their farmlands.

The motive of Saturday’s attack is unclear but the groups are known to target farmers and herders for different reasons, including failing to provide levies, suspicion of collaborating with security forces or for living under the control of the Nigerian state.

The incident highlights the threats and terror faced by farmers, loggers and displaced persons attempting to cultivate lands or search for firewood in areas where the two factions of Boko Haram operate.

The violence in the region has recorded over 30,000 fatalities with about two million people displaced from their homes since 2009.

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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