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Boko Haram attack on Nigeria oil team said to have killed 48

Michael Olukayode ,Elisha Bala-Gbogbo

An attack on a Nigerian oil exploration team by Boko Haram Islamist militants killed at least 48 people, hospital and military officials in the northeast city of Maiduguri said.

Those who died in the Tuesday attack include 18 soldiers, 15 local vigilantes, five geologists from the University of Maiduguri, four drivers working for the state oil company and six others, said medical and military officials at the university’s hospital who asked not to be named as they weren’t authorized to comment.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Emmanuel Kachikwu, told reporters earlier on Thursday that “the number of people who have been identified as dead are still being collated.” Sani Usman, the spokesman for the Nigerian military, didn’t answer two calls on his mobile phone for comment.

Africa’s top oil producer is trying to expand exploration in areas outside the restive Niger River delta in the south where militant attacks on pipelines cut output to an almost 30-year low last year. The exploration team hired by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., which was concluding geological surveys in parts of the Lake Chad basin, may resume work when “there is security clearance,” Kachickwu said.

Boko Haram, which is opposed to Western education, has waged a campaign of violence since 2009 to impose its version of Islamic law on Africa’s most populous nation of more than 180 million people. The West African country is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south.

The exploration team was in a convoy of 11 vehicles with security escorts on their way to Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, when they were ambushed in the town of Barno Yasu, officials said.

Five of nine geologists were killed in the attack while four remain missing, Dani Mamman, chairman of the Academic Staff Union of the University of Maiduguri, said Thursday by phone.

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