At least 45 people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack in northeast Nigeria, officials and witnesses said on Thursday, in the latest violence to hit the restive region.
The attack happened in the village of Azaya Kura in the Mafa area of Borno state on Wednesday, the caretaker chairman of Mafa local government area, Shettima Lawan said, calling it “wicked and despicable”.
Village chief Mallam Bulama said: “We counted 45 bodies at the end of the attack.”
But other residents said more may have died after they fled into the bush.
Mafa, which is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east by road from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, and the surrounding area has been repeatedly attacked by the Islamist insurgents.
On October 26, suspected Boko Haram fighters abducted about 30 boys and girls, some of them as young as 11 and 13, while locals complained of almost daily raids that had forced many to flee.
Some 29 people were killed in March this year after flyers were sent warning of an impending attack — a tactic used by the extremists elsewhere in the region in their quest for a hardline Islamic state.
In the latest attack, heavily armed militants arrived on motorcycles at about 12:00 pm (1100 GMT) on Wednesday as villagers were at work.
“So far, 45 men have been killed and there are others that died in the bushes as a result of bleeding from bullet wounds,” said on resident, who gave his name only as Jabiru.
Trader Musa Abbani, who fled to Maiduguri, added: “The attackers destroyed more than half of the houses in our village, burnt over 50 motorcycles and four cars before they took away foodstuff and animals.”
A village elder, Mohammed Bukar, said: “We are still picking our pieces and looking for our missing people, especially those who could not be seen in Maiduguri.”
Survivors, most of them the elderly, were seen making preparations to bury the dead.
Fifty people were said to have been injured and locals said the militants, who have said to have captured more than two dozen northeast towns, blocked exits to prevent people fleeing.
Lawan, who visited Azaya Kura on Thursday under tight security, said: “How can some people be so wicked to kill innocent people, 45 people at once without any confrontation?
“There is no compulsion in religion and I am still searching for the motive behind mass killing and destruction by some people under the guise of entrenching certain religion.
“I wish to appeal to the Federal Government to take urgent steps and rescue our people from imminent extinction.”