Boko Haram kills nine Nigerian fishermen by Lake Chad

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Boko Haram Islamists shot dead nine fishermen in a village near the shores of Lake Chad in northeastern Nigeria, a leading fisherman and a survivor said on Wednesday.

The men were heading towards the fishing town of Baga on Tuesday when they were stopped by the militants, dragged out of their van and gunned down, said Abubakar Gamandi, head of the fishermen's union in Borno State.

"From the information I got from survivors of the attack, nine of my members were killed by Boko Haram gunmen on their way to Baga from Monguno. They were ambushed at Maduwari village," he told AFP.

"Soldiers engaged the attackers in a gunfight and killed 13. They also recovered an all-terrain vehicle from the gunmen as well as the vehicle of the victims."

Two vans were taking a group of 17 fishermen to Baga when the convoy spotted the militants blocking the way ahead, said Grema Ari, who was in the second vehicle and survived the ambush.

"They dashed into the road when they heard us approaching. Our driver managed to turn back and headed to Monguno," he told AFP.

The vehicle in front was forced to stop however and its passengers were brought out and shot dead, Ari and Gamandi said.

"Later soldiers brought the bodies of our nine colleagues bearing bullet wounds to Monguno," Ari told AFP.

"They also brought the vehicle that was conveying our colleagues and another one belonging to the gunmen."

- Slaughter -

Boko Haram's bloody insurgency in Nigeria has left more than 15,000 people dead since 2009 and has increasingly spread across the country's borders, with Chad and Cameroon suffering deadly suicide bombings in recent months.

Baga was the site of the group's worst-ever massacre in January, when its fighters were accused of slaughtering hundreds of people and forcing thousands of civilians to flee.

The fishing villages around Baga were abandoned after the bloodshed but residents have been returning to settlements secured by the military, locals say.

Tuesday's ambush came a week after Boko Haram fighters slit the throats of 10 fishermen in an attack on three other villages near Baga.

They decided not to use guns "so as not to attract the attention of soldiers from Baga", Gamandi said at the time.

The hundreds of islets separated by channels hidden by tall grass in the Lake Chad region provide cover for the militants to steal livestock and food from local inhabitants.

The jihadists, now affiliated with the Islamic State group, have been using the islands as a rear base after being routed from their traditional strongholds in Nigeria by a four-country military offensive against them.

The Chadian army has launched a "major operation" to flush out Boko Haram jihadists from Lake Chad, sparking violent clashes between soldiers and the group.