The Nigerian Army is struggling to flush Boko Haram Islamist fighters out of their forest fastness, but it seems snakes may be doing the job for them.
Two suspected Boko Haram gunmen captured by local volunteers in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, said they had fled the Sambisa Forest because of "incessant snake bites", the Vanguard newspaper reports.
One of the suspects, Kolo Mustapha, said bees have also been known to join in the attacks, often leaving their victims fatally injured. Some of his fellow-fighters think there is a supernatural aspect to the attacks, fearing that Boko Haram's victims are wreaking vengeance on their killers. Mustapha said he was caught because, like many others, he was trying to sneak back into town "as we have nowhere else to go". "Our leaders have fled to Cameroon," he added, saying they had forced local youths to join the group.
The other captive, Umar Abor, said "almost all our comrades are leaving the Sambisa because of constant attacks by snakes and bees". Many accuse Boko Haram leaders of having brought the plague upon themselves by kidnapping and killing civilians. The Civilian JTF volunteers agree that fighters have been fleeing the forest in growing numbers over the past two weeks, and were helping the security forces find weapons caches.