Farmers harvesting crops in Borno state attacked by armed men on motorcycles, in the ‘most violent direct’ assault against civilians this year, UN says.

A “gruesome” massacre against farmers in northeastern Nigeria killed “tens of people”, the United Nations said late on Sunday, amending an earlier statement putting the death toll at 110.

The killings took place in the early afternoon of Saturday in the village of Koshobe and other rural communities in the Jere local government area near Maiduguri, the capital of the conflict-hit Borno state.

“Armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said in the statement.

“Tens of civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” he added.

“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year. I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice,” Kallon said.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but the armed group Boko Haram and its splinter faction, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), have carried out a series of deadly assaults in the area in recent years.

Both groups are active in the region, where fighters have killed more than 30,000 people in the past decade during an armed campaign that has displaced some two million and has spread to neighbouring countries including Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office in 2015 promising to fix the security crisis, denounced the latest massacre.

“I condemn the killing of our hard-working farmers by terrorists in Borno state. The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings,” the president said via his spokesman.

But security analyst Sulaiman Aledeh said many in the country are growing frustrated with the authorities’ inability to contain the conflict.

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