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3 Nov, 2013 13:02

Gunmen kill 30 in suspected Islamist attack on Nigerian wedding convoy

Gunmen kill 30 in suspected Islamist attack on Nigerian wedding convoy

At least 30 members of a wedding party are dead after being ambushed on a rural road in Borno State on north-eastern Nigeria, according to multiple media reports. The region is at the heart of an ongoing Islamist insurgency.

A wedding convoy was returning to state capital Maiduguri from the neighboring district along the mountainous Bama-Banki highway, which has become notorious for frequent attacks by Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic group, when attackers opened fire.

Eyewitnesses told local media that the groom, identified by his wedding robes, was among the dead, and bodies with gunshot and knife wounds were scattered across the road.

Ahmad Sajoh , state spokesman for Adamawa, from where the newlyweds were traveling, said the couple had participated in fatiha - the Muslim wedding ritual.

The massacre follows a pattern of escalating violence in the region in recent months, as the military steps up its efforts to root out the loosely-structured Boko Haram. The anti-Western and anti-Christian group, whose name is translated as ‘Western education is sinful’ from Hausa, is known for attacking government and civilian targets, including churches and schools, but has also attacked Muslims in the past.

The winding Bama-Banki passageway, which connects Nigeria with Cameroon, is a particular hotspot for disruptive activities, as Boko Haram often barricade the road, hijack cars, and attack army checkpoints along its route.

Last week Boko Haram fighters also made an assault on the city of Damaturu, destroying four police buildings in a five-hour gun battle, with official reports suggesting that more than 120 people died, including dozens of bystanders.

In turn, the government says it has taken out several Boko Haram strongholds, claiming the deaths of more than 100 insurgents in the past fortnight alone.

Nigeria, which has a population of over 170 million, is composed almost equally of Muslims and Christians, though the former dominate the north, and the latter the southern coastal areas.