Boko Haram fighters killed at least 43 farm workers and injured six in rice fields near the north-eastern city of Maiduguri on Saturday, anti-jihadist militia told AFP.
The assailants tied up the agricultural workers and slit their throats in the village of Koshobe, the militia said.
The victims were labourers from Sokoto state in north-west Nigeria, roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away, who had travelled to the north-east to find work, said another militiaman Ibrahim Liman who corroborated the death toll.
“There were 60 farmers who were contracted to harvest paddy in the rice fields. 43 were slaughtered, with six injured,” Liman said.
Eight others were missing, presumed to have been kidnapped by the jihadists, he said.
“We have recovered 43 dead bodies, all of them slaughtered, along with six others with serious injuries,” said militia leader Babakura Kolo, who helped the survivors.
“It is no doubt the handiwork of Boko Haram who operate in the area and frequently attack farmers.”
The bodies were taken to Zabarmari village, two kilometers away, where they would be kept ahead of burial on Sunday, said resident Mala Bunu who took part in the search and rescue operation.
The attack is one of the worst, waged by the rival jihadist groups in the region since Boko Haram’s insurgency began in 2009.
In October, Boko Haram militants slaughtered 22 farmers working on their irrigation fields near Maiduguri in two separate incidents.
Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, said through a spokesman in a tweet: “I condemn the killing of our hardworking farmers by terrorists in Borno state. The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings. My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls rest in peace.”
The violence has also spread into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to fight the militants.