Forgotten bomb kills 13 scrap scavengers in northeast Nigeria

Armed groups have been targeting scrap collectors, accusing them of spying for troops and the militia fighting them.

Thirteen scrap-metal collectors in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state have died after a bomb they excavated blew up, security sources told AFP.

Sixteen metal scavengers from a displaced persons’ camp in Bama found the bomb while digging for scrap on Monday in the bush on the outskirts of town.

“The bomb exploded as they were pushing it in a cart toward the town, killing 13 and seriously injuring three,” Babakura Kolo, a leader in a local militia, said on Tuesday.

Kolo said the ordnance had apparently been dropped in 2015 during military operations to retake Bama from the Boko Haram armed group.

“It was dormant for seven years and buried in the sand but they managed to dig it out, not knowing it was a bomb,” said a second militia leader, Bukar Grema, who gave the same toll.

Nigeria’s military is battling to end a 13-year conflict spearheaded by armed groups like Boko Haram in the country’s northeast. It has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced 2.2 million more.

Boko Haram seized Bama in 2014 when they took over swaths of territory in northern Borno and declared a so-called caliphate.

In March 2015, Nigerian troops aided by Chadian soldiers clawed back most of the territory after months-long intensive ground and aerial operations.

Residents who had fled the town returned three years later, with many of them living in displaced camps as the town was substantially destroyed during the fighting to retake it.

Most of the displaced who live in camps rely on food handouts from aid agencies, forcing many to turn to felling trees in the arid region for firewood and scavenging for metal scraps they sell to buy food.

Armed groups have been targeting scrap collectors, accusing them of spying for troops and the militia fighting them.

Last month, fighters from the ISIL-linked Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group killed 10 scavengers in Goni Kurmi village near Bama where they had gone looking for metal, a week after they killed 23 collectors in nearby Dikwa district.

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