FILE – Local volunteers carrying weapons stand in the Jiddari Polo area in Maiduguri, Nigeria, after an attack by Boko Haram militants, April 27, 2018. A Boko Haram attack was blamed for 43 deaths near Maiduguri on Nov. 28, 2020.

MAIDUGURI, NIGERIA – Boko Haram fighters killed at least 43 farmworkers and injured six in rice fields near the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday, anti-jihadist militia told AFP.

The assailants tied up the agricultural workers and slit their throats in the village of Koshobe, the militia said.

“We have recovered 43 dead bodies, all of them slaughtered, along with six others with serious injuries,” said militia leader Babakura Kolo, who helped the survivors. “It is no doubt the handiwork of Boko Haram, who operate in the area and frequently attack farmers.”

The victims were laborers from Sokoto state in northwest Nigeria, roughly 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away, who had traveled to the northeast to find work, said Ibrahim Liman, another militiaman who gave the same toll.

“There were 60 farmers who were contracted to harvest … the rice fields. Forty-three were slaughtered, with six injured,” Liman said.

Eight others were missing, presumed to have been kidnapped by the jihadists, he said.

The bodies were taken to Zabarmari village, two kilometers away, where they would be kept ahead of burial Sunday, said resident Mala Bunu, who took part in the search-and-rescue operation.

Last month, Boko Haram militants slaughtered 22 farmers working in their irrigation fields near Maiduguri in two separate incidents.

Boko Haram and ISWAP, its IS-linked rival, have increasingly targeted loggers, herders, and fishermen in their violent campaign, accusing them of spying and passing information to the military and the local militia fighting them.

At least 36,000 people have been killed in the jihadist conflict, which has displaced around 2 million people since 2009.

The violence has also spread into neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to fight the militants.

The attack took place as voters went to the polls in local elections in Borno State.

The elections had been repeatedly postponed because of an increase in attacks by Boko Haram and ISWAP.

Map of Maiduguri Nigeria