An ambush layed on an oil survey team by Boko Haram and an ensuing battle with Nigerian security forces have left more than 40 people dead. Details are still emerging about exactly what happened.
More than 40 people including civilians and security forces have died in an ambush by Boko Haram militants and a battle following an apparent rescue operation of a kidnapped oil exploration team in northeast Nigeria.
Details remain murky about Tuesday’s Boko Haram attack on a survey team from the state oil firm, as well as university researchers and staff, though it was followed by an apparent rescue attempt by the army and a civilian vigilante group.
The casualties include at least four deaths of researchers and staff from the University of Maiduguri, who were working with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The NNPC has been surveying for more than a year for what it says could be vast oil reserves in the Lake Chad Basin, where Boko Haram is active.
A medical source in the Nigerian Army 7th Division headquarters in Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, told AFP that 18 soldiers had been killed.
Fifteen members of the Civilian Joint Tast Force (JTF), a vigilante group that helps fight Boko Haram, were also killed, a medical worker at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital told AFP.
The death toll is likely to rise as more information comes in and bodies arrive at medical and military facilities.
Ahmed Mohammed, a spokesperson at the university, said four staff members from the university are still missing.
Setback for Nigeria
The deadly ambush is a blow to the Nigerian government after it claimed success against Boko Haram militants in recent months.
In December, the Islamist group appeared to be permanently in decline after President Muhammadu Buhari announced its last stronghold in the Sambisa forest had been destroyed.
However, insurgents from the outfit continue to carry out attacks and terrorize the population.
At least 20,000 people have been killed and some 2.7 million more forced to leave their homes during Boko Haram’s eight-year insurgency to create an Islamic state across parts of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Boko Haram is also known for kidnapping civilians, especially young women and boys, for recruitment purposes.
The most prominent of these cases was the abduction of 276 girls from a government school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. Since then, at least 100 of the girls have been rescued.
Two-thirds of Nigeria revenue comes from oil. But constant attacks on energy facilities in its southern Niger Delta oil heartland last year cut production by more than a third, deepening the recession in Africa’s biggest economy.