Facing a crackdown by the military in cities, Islamist militants are targeting villages in the northeast, killing about 160 people this year alone in Borno State and signalling there’s no respite in their five-year-old insurgency.In one of the latest assaults, suspected members of the Boko Haram group killed 39 people on February 11 when they attacked a police station, houses and mosques in Konduga, about 38 kilometres southeast of the Borno State capital. Last month, 85 people died in an attack on Kawuri village that destroyed 300 houses and shops.Since President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency on Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states last May, the military has claimed to have knocked back Boko Haram which is fighting to impose Sharia. Boko Haram started its violent campaign after its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, died in police custody in July 2009.Boko Haram has not carried out an attack on a high-profile metropolitan target since 2011 when it bombed the United Nations building in Abuja and a church at Suleja near the federal capital.Violence has eased too in Maiduguri, a city of about 1 million people that was the birthplace of Boko Haram, residents say. ”The state of emergency declaration has brought about relative peace to Maiduguri and neighbouring communities, but all that is at the expense of vulnerable villages which now suffer frequent attacks from suspected Boko Haram members,” said Aisha Abububakar, a 42-year-old tailor in Maiduguri.The US, which designated Boko Haram a “terrorist’’ organization in November, said that during the attack on Konduga the insurgents kidnapped young women from two schools in the area. The Federal Government should ensure that those abducted during the raid “are safely returned to their families and bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible,” the US Embassy said yesterday in a statement.The military claims to have killed at least 150 militants in three major pushes in Borno State since December 20,
including a January 9 shootout in which 38 rebels died.Colonel Muhammad Dole, the military spokesman in Borno, said the army plans to press ahead with its strategy of chasing the militants in an effort to smash the insurgency.Security forces have “intensified combat patrols on major roads and around vulnerable towns and villages,” Dole said in a telephone interview.Ground attacks, backed by air support, have forced some insurgents over the borders into Chad, Cameroon and Niger, Air Force Squadron Leader Chris Erondu said in an e-mailed statement on February 5.In Adamawa State, which borders Borno, nine soldiers were killed in a gunfight with Boko Haram members on Thursday.More than 10,000 Nigerians have fled into Cameroon and Niger, the United Nations Refugee Agency said last month. Hundreds more are moving to the south .As the attacks spreads in the countryside, isolated villages in Borno such as Gwoza, where a roadside bomb killed at least seven people last month, are bearing the brunt of the violence.“Residents of Gwoza and other nearby villages have been living in great fear of any possible attacks by members of the Boko Haram sect,” said Mohammed Musa, a farmer who travels to Maiduguri to sell his beans.“These terrorists have continued to attack our villages killing innocent people,” he said.