At least eight people were killed outside a church in a suspected Boko Haram attack carried out by gunmen on bicycles in northeast Nigeria, local residents said on Monday.
The attack happened shortly after morning service on Sunday in Kwamjilari village, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) east of the town of Chibok, in Borno state.
“Some of the worshippers remained around the church and the gunmen opened fire and eight men died,” said Luka Damina, from nearby Kautikeri village, where locals fled.
“Unknown to the residents, the gunmen had stationed some of their comrades on the road leading out of the village and they shot anyone who tried to flee.
“Many people ran into the bush with gunshot wounds. But so far we can only confirm eight deaths.”
The attackers set fire to homes and fields of maize that were almost ready for harvest, according to a local chief in Kautikeri, who also said eight people were killed.
The chief said soldiers were later deployed to Kwamjilari from Chibok — the scene of a notorious kidnapping in 2014 when more than 200 schoolgirls were seized.
A similar attack in the area last month left 10 people dead and saw 13 others kidnapped, while homes were looted and set on fire. Both raids bear the hallmarks of Boko Haram Islamists, who have frequently attacked villages, churches and mosques across northeast Nigeria and beyond since 2009.
Nigeria’s military maintains it now has the upper hand against the insurgents in a conflict that has left at least 20,000 dead and made more than 2.6 million people homeless.
But such sporadic attacks underline the continuing difficulty in securing remote rural areas