Boko Haram raids in Nigeria, Niger kill eight

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Boko Haram fighters killed eight people at the weekend in northeast Nigeria and southeastern Niger, in deadly raids that saw houses burnt and villagers kidnapped.

The attacks in Bam-Buratai, in Nigeria's Borno state, and in the Diffa region of Niger, happened on Saturday while there was another raid in Gulak, in Nigeria's Adamawa on Sunday.

Boko Haram hit-and-run raids -- once a trademark of the Islamic State group affiliate -- have declined in recent months in the face of a sustained Nigerian army counter-offensive in rural areas.

Instead, the group has increasingly favoured suicide and bomb attacks against civilians in towns and cities to secure maximum casualties and publicity.

Nigerian army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman confirmed the attack in Bam-Buratai, which residents who fled said started when the gunmen arrived on bicycles and on foot at about 11:00 pm (2200 GMT).

The attackers were "shooting indiscriminately and throwing explosives into homes", said one local, who asked not to be identified, from the town of Biu, 20 kilometres (13 miles) away.

"They shot dead three people and burnt another to death in his home before abducting two women and three children and driving them away in the two vehicles to they took from the village."

The remote farming village is near the home of Nigeria's chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, which was itself targeted in September 2014 and 20 people were killed.

Boko Haram has previously kidnapped women and young girls in its six-year insurgency. Its most high-profile hostages are 219 schoolgirls seized from the Borno town of Chibok in April 2014.

- Cross-border raid -

Across the border in Niger, a local official said four people were killed, two others injured and some 50 homes torched in a village near the provincial capital, Diffa, on Saturday evening.

"The Boko Haram members were armed with Kalashnikovs and came across the Komadougou Yobe" river that divides Niger and Nigeria, Fougou Boukar told state television.

State television showed hundreds of distressed villagers praying in memory of the victims. Some of them showed scores of empty cartridges they had gathered after the attack.

The attack again underlined the regional threat posed by Boko Haram, which has spread its attacks to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Last week, Boko Haram killed 18 people and injured 11 others during a raid in the village of Wogom located near the southeastern town of Bosso.

Three of the victims, including the local imam, had their throats slit.

The United Nations has registered around 50 attacks and clashes between Islamist fighters and Nigerien troops since February.

On Saturday, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up in northern Cameroon, killing five and seriously wounding two soldiers.

- Military base -

Boko Haram's insurgency to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has left at least 17,000 people dead and made more than 2.6 million homeless.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has given his military commanders until the end of the year to end the insurgency, although he has admitted suicide and bomb attacks may continue.

In Adamawa, police spokesman Uthman Abubakar and the former chairman of the Madagali local government area, of which Gulak is the headquarters, said the rebels sacked and razed a military base.

Maina Ularamu said a group of Islamists in two pick-up trucks carried out the attack, forcing the soldiers to flee. The rebels then seized arms and ammunition before setting the base on fire.

"A soldier and several Boko Haram gunmen were killed in the battle while one suspected member of the insurgents was arrested," he added.

The militants abandoned one of their vans in which some of the stolen arms were recovered, he said.

Gulak, some ‎200 kilometres north of the state capital Yola, has been hit by Boko Haram attacks several times.

The group launched its worst attack on the town in September 2014, where fighters went door-to-door‎ shooting residents and burning homes.