Three bodies found after the hostage-taking Thursday in the Wulgo forest, according to residents and sources.
Three loggers were found dead and at least 40 others were reportedly kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters in northeast Nigeria.
Sources and residents told AFP news agency on Saturday that the loggers were arrested Thursday by fighters in Wulgo forest near the town of Gamboru where they were going to collect firewood.
“A group of more than 40 loggers left Shehuri in the suburb of Gamboru on Thursday and never returned in the evening as usual,” said group leader Umar Kachalla, who was involved in the search.
“On Friday, we mobilized men and went deep into the forest where we recovered three bodies identified as being part of the loggers, without leaving any trace of their colleagues.
The missing loggers were presumed kidnapped by the group, which are known to maintain camps in the forest, Kachalla said, a view widely shared by other residents.
Fighters have increasingly targeted loggers and farmers in the northeast, accusing them of passing information on to the military and local armed groups.
‘Pulled from behind’
“We believe the men were taken away by Boko Haram who attacked loggers in the forest,” said Shehu Mada, leader of another armed group.
“Obviously the three dead loggers were shot when they tried to escape as they were all shot from behind.
The area has been deprived of telephone service for years following the destruction of masts during the Boko Haram attacks, forcing residents to rely on Cameroon’s mobile phone networks.
Gamboru loggers have suffered repeated attacks and kidnappings by Boko Haram, particularly around Wulgo Forest.
In November 2018, Boko Haram seized some 50 loggers on their way to collect firewood in the forest, after killing 49 loggers in two previous attacks.
Babandi Abdullahi, a resident, said military officials warned loggers not to venture deep into the forest to avoid attacks.
People are forced to take this risk because the vegetation nearby has been depleted by constant logging, Abdullahi said.
According to the UN, Boko Haram and a dissident group known as ISWAP have killed 36,000 people in the northeast and forced around two million people to flee since 2009.
Earlier this month, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of more than 300 schoolchildren who were taken away after an attack on their school in the village of Katsina in Kankara, northwest Nigeria. All the boys have since been rescued.