Islamic State-affiliated terrorists had held captive 76 farmers in the northeastern state of Borno near the border of Cameroon for two days before releasing them, according to militia sources.
The farmers were abducted from a displaced people’s camp in Ngala on Friday by fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) while burning vegetation to plant crops.
The sources said the abducted people comprised men, women, and children and were taken hostage until Sunday.
“ISWAP had warned farmers from burning shrubs and thicket in the area which give them cover from Nigerian troops,” militia leader Umar Kachalla told AFP.
Kachalla said the farmers were released after the men were flogged “as punishment and warning”.
“They were lucky to have been taken by ISWAP and not Boko Haram who would have killed the men and enslaved the women and the children,” Umar Ari, another militia leader, added.
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ISWAP splintered from Boko Haram in 2016 and became their main rival. They decided to part ways due to disagreements over Boko Haram’s indiscriminate targeting of Muslim civilians and use of children and women as suicide bombers.
Both groups, however, have increasingly targetted loggers, farmers, and herders, believing that they were spies that transmit information to the military and the local militia resisting them.
They also raid herding communities to seize their cattle to raise money essential for their operations.
SInce 2009, terrorist groups have killed 40,000 and displaced two million people in the northeast.