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Nigerian Governor Calls for Calm as Boko Haram Attacks Escalate


FILE - Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima on Saturday commended security and vigilante forces, saying that the death toll in a Boko Haram raid on the village of Zabarmari would have been much higher had it not been for their "gallantry."

Amid a surge of deadly violence by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria’s northeast, the governor of the embattled Borno state is trying to assure residents of their safety.

Fighters from the Islamist militant group stormed the village of Zabarmari on the outskirts of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, on Friday evening. The militants killed seven people before being repelled by the military and vigilantes known as the civilian JTF.

On a visit to the rice-farming community Saturday, state Governor Kashim Shettima commended the security forces.

“If not because of the gallantry displayed by them and the civilian JTF, the casualty figure could have been much higher,” he said.

The attack came as Boko Haram has been intensifying its campaign of bombings and shootings in Borno state, where the insurgency got its start in 2009.

On Sunday, a suspected Boko Haram suicide bomber killed at least five people at a Christian Church in Potiskum in Yobe state.

Last week, the militants shot dead 145 people in rural communities of Borno state and carried out a twin suicide bombing near Maiduguri that killed another 14. They also killed 11 people they accused of deserting the group.

The group’s campaign to impose strict Islamic law on Nigeria’s northeast has forced more than 1.5 million people from their homes and, according to the European Union, has left more than 20,000 dead.

Many of the displaced have crowded into cities like Maiduguri, which are better protected from Boko Haram raids.

Shettima appealed to villagers of Zabarmari not to flee, saying the military would protect them.

“The people need not to relocate to any other community," he said. "We have more than enough internally displaced people to contend with.”

The attacks increase the pressure on recently inaugurated President Muhammadu Buhari to fulfill his campaign promise to crush the insurgency.

VOA's Kareem Haruna contributed to this report from Zabarmari, Nigeria.