MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Angry youths in a vigilante group mobbed and killed a policeman and threatened others Saturday in retaliation for the killing of one of their members in northeast Nigeria, police and military officials said, causing further friction in an area tense with violence from Islamic militants.
The Civilian Joint Task Force was formed by residents to help capture Boko Haram suspects in and around Maiduguri, where the Islamic insurgents formed years ago.
The spokesman of the 7th division of the Nigeria army, Lt Col. Sagir Musa, said he took the attacked policeman, who was drenched in blood, to the police headquarters.
It was not immediately clear if the attacked policeman was the same officer who had shot dead the vigilante.
State police commissioner Lawal Tanko confirmed the incidents and the death of the policeman.
The angry vigilantes also blocked the major Kano-Maiduguri road with burning tires and threatened all police, calling them accomplices of Boko Haram.
Civilian-JTF member Muhammed Adamu said that members of his group were stopped by policemen for driving in the wrong lane. He said they had caught a Boko Haram member.
“We told him we could not (take the other lane) because we had a Boko Haram suspect. He threatened to shoot if we didn’t,” Adamu said. “One of our members said he dare not. And the policeman opened fire, killing one of our members.”
The Civilian-JTF says it has helped lead to the arrests of thousands of Boko Haram members since it formed in June. It also claims responsibility for many killings and has the backing of the military.
Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima pleaded for calm on Saturday. He said the government would try to pacify and compensate the family of the dead Civilian-JTF member.
“This is a sad development as it really threatens the emerging peace we are enjoying,” Shettima said.
“I want to appeal to the angry youths to calm down. This is our state and the youths have assisted us tremendously in restoring peace. Let them not destabilize the emerging peace we are enjoying now,” he said.
Lt. Col. Musa said the military has been deployed to the area. The 7th division, once fully formed, will replace the vigilantes in the fight against Boko Haram.
Many residents have welcomed the vigilantes and credited them for some initial relative peace. Others find their existence troubling and worry that they may carry out human rights abuses.