The death toll from a jihadist attack on a military convoy in northeast Nigeria has risen from 23 to 35, while 30 troops are still missing, security sources said Thursday.
Fighters linked to the so-called Islamic State group ambushed the convoy on Tuesday at Bulabulin village, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
Twenty-three soldiers were initially thought to have been killed in Tuesday’s attack, and many were listed as missing.
But security sources said more bodies had now been found in nearby bush.
“We lost 35 soldiers from the ambush. Eighteen others were injured while 30 are still missing. Their fate is not known,” a security source told AFP.
“More bodies were recovered in the bush by rescue teams which led to a rise in the deaths,” he said.
Another source confirmed the new toll.
“Thirty-five bodies of troops were recovered as … search teams combed the area around the scene of the ambush. Another 30 have not been accounted for. It is not known whether they are dead or alive,” he said.
He said the jihadists torched a mine-resistant vehicle and carted away eight guntrucks, guns and communication equipment.
“It was a surprise attack. The terrorists hid inside heaps of foliage they gathered along the road and opened fire on the convoy as it passed. It was a close-range ambush,” he said.
The troops were returning from patrol and clearance operation against the insurgents when they came under attack.
The Nigerian military confirmed the ambush on Wednesday but insisted only two soldiers were killed and four wounded.
It said 17 insurgents were killed in the subsequent fighting.
Nigeria’s army has repeatedly claimed that the insurgency has been largely defeated and frequently underplays any losses.
The decade-long conflict in northeast Nigeria has killed 36,000 people and forced around two million from their homes.
Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) splintered from the main Boko Haram group in 2016 and have become a dominant force.
ISWAP has focused most of its attacks on military targets but has increasingly launched bloody assaults on civilians in recent months.