Government troops and several hundred residents have been forced to flee after Islamist insurgents overran a town in northeast Nigeria in an attack claimed by Islamic State, security sources said on Saturday.
Friday’s assault on Marte, which lies on Lake Chad in Borno state, came just two months after residents driven from their homes by Islamist attacks had returned to the town under a government programme.
It underscores the precarious security situation in northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) are active, and the difficulties the government faces as it tries to return people displaced by the violence.
Soldiers fled during Friday’s assault and Marte remained under the control of the militants on Saturday, the sources said.
An unspecified number of wounded people could not be reached, and it was not immediately clear whether there had been any deaths. The sources said they believed the insurgents were part of ISWAP.
An army statement said troops “tactically withdrew” to defend against a militant attack outside Marte. Troops had “effectively destroyed” seven gun trucks and “decimated” an unconfirmed number of attackers, it said.
Islamic State later posted a statement on its Amaq news channel on Telegram claiming responsibility for the attack.
Without giving further details, it said seven people had been killed, and one captured, and that its fighters had seized weapons, ammunition and six four-wheel-drive vehicles, as well as burning down the army barracks.
Sources from the military and police said most residents had fled to the nearby Dikwa local government area and to Maiduguri, Borno’s state capital.
“The situation is grim,” one said.
On Thursday, five soldiers were killed and 15 others wounded by a landmine planted by Boko Haram in the remote village of Chibok in the southern part of Borno, two military sources told Reuters.