MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – A Chinese construction worker has been killed in a besieged city in Nigeria's northeast, an official said Friday, exacerbating security concerns for foreign workers in Nigeria's violence-wracked northeast, while an overnight raid in a nearby city left 5 others dead and several schools razed to the ground.
Gunmen shot the Chinese builder Friday morning on a main road that had been undergoing reconstruction in the city of Maiduguri, said the Borno State ministry of works spokesman Babakura Bukar.
He said it was not immediately clear if the Chinese national had survived the bullet wound, but a hospital source that requested anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to press said that the hospital received the dead body of a Chinese man at about noon Friday.
An Associated Press reporter who went to the construction site on Lagos Street said all workers, Chinese and Nigerian, had deserted it Friday afternoon. With the road partly excavated, there remained only a narrow lane for motorists to use. Lagos Street is the main link to the busy neighborhood that houses the state's university.
Bukar could not say when or if the construction workers would return and the Chinese embassy could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
The incident comes about two weeks after a Chinese cook for another construction company was shot dead while shopping at a food market in a town outside Maiduguri.
Several Chinese construction companies operate in Nigeria. In Borno state, most, if not all, government-funded projects are being undertaken by Chinese companies.
The region is largely rural but, with a growing and increasingly urbanized population, there has been a greater need for basic infrastructure, such as roads and offices. For years, foreigners including Chinese, Lebanese, Indians, and others, have run businesses or worked in construction in Nigeria's once-peaceful arid north as well as its central plains.
In recent years, however, a locally focused Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has engaged in a deadly campaign that has left more than 680 dead this year alone across northern Nigeria, accorded to an Associated Press count.
The group has said it seeks the strict implementation of Islamic Shariah law in a West African nation evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. As the government struggles to contain the violence, the group continues to constrict and threaten millions of people's lives, especially in Maiduguri, Boko Haram's spiritual home, and surrounding areas.
In Potiskum, a city 140 miles (230 kilometers) west of Maiduguri, an Associated Press reporter saw two corpses in a car and three others lying on the road Friday morning after gunshots and blasts echoed throughout Thursday night. He also counted five burned down primary schools; two Islamic schools and three public ones. Similar raids have previously been blamed on Boko Haram, but local police could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Except for last year's Aug. 26 attack on the United Nations headquarters in Abuja, which killed 25 people, including a Norwegian, a Kenyan and an Ivorian, Boko Haram has not appeared to have a specific interest in foreign targets and there was no claim of responsibility Friday for the Chinese worker's killing.
However, over the last year, a series of attacks in northern Nigeria have claimed the lives of foreigners.
In May, gunmen in Kaduna state shot and killed a Lebanese and a Nigerian construction worker, while kidnapping another Lebanese employee. Later that month, kidnappers shot a German hostage dead during a rescue operation. Gunmen who authorities say have links to Boko Haram also kidnapped an Italian and a British man last year in northern Kebbi State. The sect later denied taking part in the abduction.
Previously, it was Nigeria's oil-rich delta that posed the highest threat to expatriate workers who mostly worked in the oil sector. Oil militancy there led to frequent kidnappings and attacks on oil infrastructure until a government-sponsored amnesty program brought relative peace to the region.
Adamu Adamu contributed to this report from Potiskum, Nigeria.