Three loggers were found dead and at least 40 more were feared abducted by Boko Haram gunmen in northeastern Nigeria.
The loggers were rounded up by the gunmen on Thursday in Wulgo forest near the town of Gamboru where they went to collect firewood.
“A group of more than 40 loggers left Shehuri on the outskirts of Gamboru on Thursday and never returned by evening as usual,” said a group leader Umar Kachalla, who was involved in the search.
“On Friday, we mobilised men and went deep into the forest where we recovered three bodies identified to be among the loggers, without a trace of their colleagues.”
The missing loggers were presumed kidnapped by the group, who are known to maintain camps in the forest, said Kachalla, a view widely shared by other residents.
“We believe the men were taken by Boko Haram who have been attacking loggers in the forest,” said Shehu Mada, leader of another armed group.
“From all indication, the three dead loggers were shot when they tried to escape as they all were shot from behind.”
The gunmen have increasingly targeted loggers and farmers in the northeast, accusing them of passing information to the military and local armed groups.
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 had warned loggers not to venture deep into the forest to avoid the attacks.
People are compelled to take that risk because nearby vegetation has been depleted by constant logging, Abdullahi said.
According to the UN, Boko Haram and a splinter group known as ISWAP have killed 36,000 people in the northeast and forced roughly two million to flee since 2009.