ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Cameroonian troops have killed at least 70 residents while chasing Islamic insurgents in the Gwoza area of Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, fleeing villagers said.
Troops entered Kirawa-Jimni village on Sunday, asked where were Boko Haram insurgents and started shooting, residents said.
"We didn't know what was going on but the Cameroonian troops suddenly appeared and began to ask us for Boko Haram terrorists," said Muhammed Abba, a resident of the village and deputy commander of a local group of civilians set up to fight the extremists in Gwoza. "Before we could say a word, they started firing. That scared most of us and we began to run."
Abba said that when people returned Monday, they found 70 corpses littering the ground.
The Borno state spokesman for a civilian self-defense group, Abbas Gava, confirmed the reports, saying he received calls from residents of Ashigashiya village near the border with Cameroon.
"They said the soldiers were in hot pursuit of the Boko Haram terrorists who ran into Kirawa-Jimni," he said.
Cameroon's military spokesman Col. Didier Badjeck on Wednesday denied that troops shot at civilians, saying Cameroon and Nigerian soldiers are carrying out raids against Boko Haram.
"We know the terrorists are hiding and taking revenge on armless civilians but we are protecting them," he said.
Kirawa-Jimni is a border community near Cameroon. Many Gwoza residents who had fled to Maiduguri and Yola say insurgents are still very present there.
Nigerian refugees said Cameroonian troops also chased Boko Haram fighters into Nigerian territory on Nov. 30, killing at least 150 people.
Cameroon's government then denied the charges, saying the military is trained to respect human rights. It said an operation around that time freed 900 people held by extremists in the Lake Chad area.
Associated Press writer Edwin Kindzeka Moki contributed from Yaounde, Cameroon.