Suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a Nigerian border town in the restive northeast on Monday, setting fire to houses and killing an unknown number of people, witnesses and government sources said.
Hours after the raid started on Damasak, gunmen still roamed the area, with many locals seeking to flee into neighbouring Niger, just to the north of the town.
It was the third major attack over the last week in Nigeria’s Borno State, which have already seen close to 100 people die, including more than 25 people, mostly fishermen, shot dead in a remote community over the weekend.
“The insurgents came at about 9.00 am and fired shots into houses to force people out. They are still there up till now and still firing shots. Many people may have died. I am talking to you now from the bush,” witness Bukar Aji told Reuters.
Musa Himma, a resident, told Reuters by phone that some 15 people alone had drowned trying to swim to safety across a river. Another witness said many had been killed by gunmen who surrounded the town arriving in pick-up trucks and motorcycles.
Borno is one of three states under a state of emergency due to the five-year insurgency by Islamist group Boko Haram, which is trying to carve out a caliphate.
A military source, who spoke to a colleague in Damasak, said that the militants had tried to attack the town last week.
“They came back today in large numbers, but our troops cannot curtail them,” the source said.