Boko Haram jihadists have killed four soldiers in an ambush in northeast Nigeria, where they torched an army base a day after killing seven civilians, a soldier and witnesses said.
“Our men came under attack near Gubdori village yesterday,” the soldier told AFP, asking not to be named.
“We lost four men in the ambush. Five were injured and four are still missing.”
The Islamists opened fire on an army convoy heading to the small town of Gulumba in Borno state, he added.
Military reinforcements came from the town and the attackers “were forced to withdraw after suffering heavy casualties”.
The assailants came from the Boko Haram faction headed by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, son of the sect’s founder Mohammed Yusuf, the soldier added, in an account confirmed by two vigilantes.
Barnawi was appointed last year by the Islamic State group to replace veteran Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.
Jihadists also attacked the military base in Wajirko village, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, forcing the soldiers to flee.
“The gunmen arrived in pickups and engaged soldiers in the base just outside the village in a heavy shootout,” Wajirko resident Bukar Maduye told AFP.
“The soldiers were outgunned and forced to withdraw from the base and allowed the gunmen, who were from Mamman Nur faction, to take over the base which they looted and set on fire,” he said, adding that villagers were not attacked.
Barnawi’s right-hand man Mamman Nur, the alleged mastermind of a 2011 bombing of a UN building in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, is believed by many to be the real leader of the faction.
A vigilante assisting the military in its fight against Boko Haram confirmed the incident, adding that the soldiers had moved to a military base 40 kilometres away (25 miles).
“There were no reports of casualties from either side but the (military) base was completely burnt by the Boko Haram terrorists and the soldiers fled,” Mustapha Karimbe said.
In a previous attack, scores of Boko Haram fighters rode on motorcycles Wednesday into Abbati, a farming community outside Maiduguri, where they killed seven men and stole 360 livestock.
“They slaughtered the two men they had forced to lead them to the community and shot dead the five owners of the cattle herds who had confronted them with bows and arrows,” said vigilante Babakura Kolo.
Barnawi and Mamman Nur have previously promised residents in areas under their control they would not be harmed as long as they did not cooperate with Nigerian troops fighting Boko Haram.
But in recent weeks the Islamist fighters have intensified raids in areas near Lake Chad, stealing food from residents.
They have also killed several civilians they accused of cooperating with the military.