Maiduguri (Nigeria) (AFP) – Hundreds of people may have been killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack on four villages in northeast Nigeria, a local lawmaker and residents said on Thursday.
Gunmen in military uniform struck the Gwoza district of Borno state late on Tuesday, razing homes, churches and mosques and killing residents who tried to flee the violence.
Some community leaders put the death toll in the attacks as high as 400 to 500, although there was no independent verification of the claim because of poor communications and difficulties by the emergency services in accessing the area.
If confirmed, the attack on the villages of Goshe, Attagara, Agapalwa and Aganjara would be one of the deadliest in the Islamists’ deadly five-year insurgency and top the more than 300 who were killed on May 5 when militant fighters laid siege to the nearby town of Gamboru Ngala.
“The killings are massive but nobody can give a toll for now because nobody has been able to go to that place because the insurgents are still there. They have taken over the whole area,” lawmaker Peter Biye told AFP.
“There are bodies littered over the whole area and people have fled,” added Biye, who represents Gwoza in Nigeria’s lower chamber of parliament, the House of Representatives.
Reports from the remote region, said the insurgents continued their attack on Wednesday, stealing livestock and food and burning property.
“Hundreds of dead bodies are lying there… because there is nobody that will bury them,” said one community leader in Attagara, who requested anonymity.
He said the attackers only spared women and that young boys were “snatched from the backs of their mothers and killed”.
Men, women and children fled the villages but gunmen on motorcycles tracked them down, shooting as they ran, he added.
Gwoza shares a border with Cameroon and is surrounded by mountains and the Sambisa forest, a known Boko Haram base and the focus for a Nigerian military search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped on April 14.
Many people fled across the border, as soldiers were deployed to fight the heavily armed Islamists, who took over at least seven villages hoisting their black flag, Biye said on Wednesday.