Jihadist fighters linked to the Islamic State group killed 15 security personnel on Friday in an ambush against a governor’s convoy in restless northeast Nigeria, three security officials said.
Sources told AFP that eight policemen, three soldiers and four members of a government-backed militia were killed in the attack on vehicles carrying Borno’s governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, near the lake-side city of Baga. Chad.
The insurgents opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades as the convoy passed through a village near the headquarters of the Multinational Joint Task Force, a military coalition of troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
“The governor escaped unharmed, but 15 security men from the convoy were killed in a fierce battle with the terrorists,” said a source.
Zulum was on an assessment tour of Baga in preparation for the return of thousands of residents displaced from the city by jihadists in 2014, sources said.
The governor flew by helicopter to the garrison town of Monguno, 60 kilometers (40 miles) away, and headed to Baga in a convoy under tight security, one of the sources said.
All three sources were speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Islamic State-affiliated West African Province (ISWAP) group maintains most of its camps on islands in Lake Chad and the region is known as a stronghold for jihadists.
The militant group has recently stepped up attacks against military and civilian targets in the region.
In July, the Zulum convoy was attacked with firearms by ISWAP on the outskirts of Baga, forcing it to cancel its trip to the city.
Last week, the group killed a Nigerian army commander along with three soldiers in an ambush near the city of Damboa.
Civilians patrolling the road between Monguno and the regional capital, Maiduguri, said the jihadists set up daily checkpoints, robbing, killing and kidnapping passengers.
The decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria has killed 36,000 people and forced more than 2 million from their homes.
Most of the displaced have been housed in miserable camps where they depend on food donations from international charities.
Local authorities have been encouraging the displaced to return home despite concern from aid agencies about the security risks to which the returnees would be exposed.
Last week, Zulum said that feeding the displaced was not financially sustainable and insisted that the only option was for them to return and rebuild their homes and lead “dignified” lives.
ISWAP split from the main Boko Haram group in 2016 and has become the dominant insurgent force in the region.