Residents of Maiduguri have been thrown into panic following the killing and abduction of several travellers along the Maiduguri-Damaturu expressway in Borno State.
The 133-kilometre highway is the only major road that links Borno to other parts of the country.
The killing and abduction of travellers on Friday is the latest and deadliest of similar incidents as the insurgents redouble their activities on the road in recent times.
Witnesses told Channels Television on Saturday that armed men believed to be insurgents stormed the highway in large numbers and mounted an illegal checkpoint around Auno, barely 23 kilometres to Maiduguri from where they picked their victims.
According to them, travellers in scores of commercial and private-owned vehicles were caught up in the attack.
However, military authorities have yet to confirm the incident.
Multiple sources also confirmed that the insurgents moved from vehicle to vehicle, scrutinising and interviewing passengers, asking non-Muslims and those not dressed like Muslims to step out of the car they were in.
They also warned the travellers against attempting to escape and those who tried to beat a retreat were instantly shot dead, a survivor revealed.
It is not clear how many people were abducted or how many got killed while trying to escape, but many cars were said to have been set ablaze.
According to witnesses, troops of the Nigerian Army later arrived at the scene after the assailants had retreated.
They directed all the travellers to move back to the next village before they combed the road to ensure it was safe for motorists.
The flow of traffic along the Maiduguri-Damaturu Road has been heavy lately with many people travelling to and fro the city for the holidays.
While air travel is presumed the safest means of transportation in and out of Maiduguri at the moment, many prefer to travel by road.
This, according to them, is as a result of the high cost of tickets to and from Maiduguri which is between N100,000 to N120,000 for Abuja and N170,000 for Lagos.
Suicide Attack In Konduga Town
Elsewhere, a source told Channels Television that a suicide bomber infiltrated Kaimari area in Konduga town, about 38 kilometres away from Maiduguri.
The bomber, a teenage girl, was said to have detonated the explosive she was wearing and blew herself up.
According to the source, two male civilians were instantly killed and three others injured were rushed to a hospital.
One of the victims later died of the injuries sustained, raising the number of deaths from the attack to three.
“We evacuated three dead bodies and two people who were seriously injured from the scene,” an aid worker Abubakar Mohammed told AFP on Saturday.
Konduga and surrounding villages have been repeatedly targeted by suicide bombers from Boko Haram, which typically attacks soft civilian targets such as mosques, markets and bus stations.
In 2019, no fewer than 30 people were killed in Konduga when three bombers detonated their explosives outside a hall where football fans had gathered to watch a match on TV.
Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have killed thousands of people and displaced millions of residents in Borno since 2009.