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Boko Haram jihadists have killed six farmers who were working on their land near the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, civilian militia members and locals said today.
Gunmen on motorcycles attacked the group who were preparing their fields for the rainy season outside Amrawa village, 16 kilometres from the Borno state capital, on Saturday.
"The gunmen attacked the farmers with machetes as they were clearing their farms that have been taken over by weeds in preparation for the rains which start in a few days," said Ibrahim Liman, a civilian militia member.
"They seized six farmers and slaughtered them while the rest fled."
Liman's account was supported by Masida Bunu and Rahis Musa, who live in the village. Some residents raised the alarm and the militia pursued the attackers to the nearby village of Sojori.
"The vigilantes fought the terrorists and killed four while the rest fled," said Liman.
At least 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2.6 million made homeless in northeast Nigeria since the start of Boko Haram's Islamist insurgency in 2009.
Nigeria's government and military maintain the jihadists are a spent force but sporadic attacks and suicide bombings pose a constant threat, particularly in remote areas.
Saturday's attack again underlines the vulnerability of rural communities at a time when the authorities have been encouraging the displaced to return and rebuild their lives.
Northeast Nigeria is in the grip of severe food shortages, as farmers have missed three rainy seasons in a row because of the insecurity.
Crops have been destroyed and food stores looted, while farmers have either been killed or forced to flee to safety in vast camps for the displaced.
Most of the remote region relies on subsistence agriculture. But domestic and international aid agencies are now having to provide food as well as shelter and healthcare.