More than 60 people were killed when armed men attacked a funeral procession Saturday in northeast Nigeria, according to Nigerian state media. The country's president has vowed to hunt down the perpetrators, widely suspected to be Boko Haram militants.
The jihadist group has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria and surrounding West African countries for a decade, killing tens of thousands of people and displacing about 2.4 million others.
The chairman of the local government council, Muhammad Bulama, told the state news agency that insurgents had recently attacked this same community, Badu village, but the residents effectively fought back.
"The villagers resisted the attack, killed 11 insurgents and recovered 10 AK-47 rifles in the encounter," Bulama said.
Saturday's attack appears to have been a reprisal, he added.
"On Saturday at about 11:40 a.m., the insurgents came on a reprisal mission, attacked mourners at a graveyard, killed over 60 persons and injuring 11 others," Bulama told the state news agency.
According to the BBC, "a number of mourners were reportedly killed straight away, while others died trying to chase off the attackers."
Attack survivor Maina Abdullahi, 29, told The Guardian that he was home when he suddenly saw people fleeing.
"I ran into the fight between our people and the Boko Harams who shot at everything they came across," Abdullahi told the newspaper. "I was shot at the left side of my shoulder but I continued to crawl until I found help."
Photos from the scene captured by an AFP journalist show burned-out structures and men carrying the corpse of a person killed in the attack, wrapped in white cloth, to a funeral.
Boko Haram has not formally claimed responsibility, though the attack in Badu village fits the pattern of their actions in the area. As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports, it is "the latest in a series of intensifying assaults in northeast Nigeria," and appears to be "the deadliest such attack against civilians in the region this year."
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said through a spokesperson that the military has launched an operation to pursue the attackers with air patrols and ground troops.
"The Federal Government is firmly and resolutely committed to taking necessary measures to safeguard the nation's security," spokesperson Malam Garba Shehu told the state news agency. "This administration is determined to end the menace of terrorism."
Shehu said the military would also offer additional protection against attacks to people living in camps for internally displaced persons in the area, which is near Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
Boko Haram is best known for kidnapping more than 270 schoolgirls in the region of Chibok in 2014. Since then, groups of the girls have escaped or have been released, though according to the organization Bring Back Our Girls, 112 remain missing.
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