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THE number of farmers massacred in a suspected Boko Haram attack may rise, a spokesman for the Nigerian presidency warned today.
Garba Shehu told the BBC that more fatalities may be reported following Saturday’s slaughter of farmers in north-eastern Borno state.
Some 44 rice farmers and fishermen killed in the attack as they were harvesting crops were buried on Sunday.
They had been rounded up and killed by armed insurgents reportedly in retaliation for refusing to pay protection money to a militant. The attackers also torched the farms before leaving.
“The government is sad that this tragic incident has happened,” Mr Shehu said. “The full extent of what has happened — including the number of fatalities — might change.”
He said that an operation had been launched to track down the attackers, suspected to be from the jihadist Boko Haram group, which is active in the region.
“Securing the community and the nation is not for the police alone: it must involve everyone, even if they are just limited to reporting movement of suspicious characters,” Mr Shehu said.
Malam Zabarmari, a leader of a rice farmers’ association in Borno, warned that the death toll could reach up to 60 people.
House of representatives member Ahmed Satomi said that the farmers were attacked because they had disarmed and arrested a Boko Haram gunman on Friday who had been tormenting them.
“A lone gunman who was a member of Boko Haram came to harass the farmers by ordering them to give him money and also cook for him,” he said.
“While he was waiting for the food to be cooked, the farmers seized the moment he stepped into the toilet to snatch his rifle and tied him up.
“They later handed him over to the security [forces] but, sadly, the security forces did not protect the courageous farmers.”
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