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(Reuters) – Suspected Boko Haram militants have killed dozens of people in five attacks on Nigerian villages that occurred after the government announced a ceasefire to enable 200 abducted girls to be freed, security sources and witnesses said on Saturday.
However, the government cast doubt on whether the attacks really were Boko Haram or one of several criminal groups that are exploiting the chaos of the insurgency. A spokesman said talks to free the girls would continue in Chad on Monday.
The fresh attacks dashed hopes for an easing of the northeast’s violence, although officials remained confident they can negotiate the release of girls whose abduction by the rebels in the remote northeastern town of Chibok in April caused international shock and outrage.
A presidency and another government source said they were aiming to do this by Tuesday.
Boko Haram, whose name translates roughly as “Western education is sinful”, has massacred thousands in a struggle to carve an Islamic state out of religiously mixed Nigeria, whose southern half is mainly Christian in faith.
Nigeria’s armed forces chief Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced the ceasefire on Friday. On Saturday, two senior government sources said it aims to secure the girls’ release as early as Monday or Tuesday, although they declined to give further details.
In the first attack, suspected insurgents attacked the village of Abadam on Friday night, killing at least one person and ransacking homes, while another assault on the village of Dzur on Saturday morning left at least eight people dead.
Three other attacks in Adamawa state on Saturday killed dozens of people, witnesses and a local politician said.
“I was just boarding a bus when the gunshots started,” Adams Mishelia, who was in the adjacent town of Shaffa, said of the Dzur attack. “People were fleeing into the bush, so I got off the bus and headed to the bush too. I later learned they slaughtered eight people.”
A security source confirmed that attack and the assault on Abadam the night before. Mohammed Bulama, a resident of the main northeastern city of Maiduguri, told Reuters he lost his uncle in the Abadam attack. Other casualties there were unclear.
On Saturday suspected insurgents also attacked three small towns in a local government area called Michika, Adamawa state.
“Dozens of people are been killed and houses are been burnt by the insurgents, so what is the meaning of the ceasefire government is talking about?” said Adamu Kamale, a state government lawmaker.
“DISCUSSIONS IN CHAD”
When asked about the violence, government spokesman Mike Omeri said by telephone that “the Boko Haram people have also said that some attacks are not undertaken by them”.
Boko Haram, seen as the biggest threat to Africa’s top economy and oil producer, is believed to be divided into several factions that loosely cooperate with each other, and it is unclear with which faction the government has been negotiating.
Written by: LANRE OLA, continue at REUTERS