The bodies of Nigerian farm workers slain in a suspected Boko Haram terrorist attack awaited burial Sunday in northeastern Borno State. Photo by EPA-EFE/STR
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- At least 110 civilian farmers have been killed and many others wounded while harvesting crops in an apparent terrorist attack in Nigeria's northeastern Borno State, United Nations officials said.
Edward Kallon, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said the "gruesome attack" was carried out Saturday by armed men on motorcycles, targeting people harvesting rice fields in Koshobe and nearby rural areas.
Several women may also have been kidnapped during the assaults in an area where the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency has been active in recent years.
"I extend my sincere condolences to the families of the civilians who lost their lives in this atrocious attack," Kallon said while demanding the "immediate release and return to safety" of those kidnapped in the assault.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the incident, but Kallon said the massacre stood out as "the most violent attack against innocent civilians this year" in Nigeria, where Boko Haram has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions from their homes.
"The killing of rice farmers in ... Borno State is tragic and condemnable," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted. "[The government] has given and continues to give all the needed support to the Nigerian Armed Forces to take all necessary steps to protect the country's population and its territory."
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday called for "the immediate and safe return of the abductees and those still reported missing."
"The Secretary-General reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to support the government of Nigeria in its fight against terrorism and violent extremism and in its response to pressing humanitarian needs in the northeast of the country," the statement added.
Rural communities in restive Borno State are facing "untold hardships," UN officials said, including a looming food crisis.