Suspected Boko Haram armed members attacked a Nigerian border town in the restive northeast of the country 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 neighboring Niger, just to the north.
It was the third major attack over the last week in Nigeria's Borno state, which has seen close to 100 people die in that time, including more than 25 people, mostly fishermen, shot dead in a remote community over the weekend.
"The insurgents came at about 9 a.m. 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," said witness Bukar Aji, who said he is hiding out in the bush.
Musa Himma, another resident, said by phone that some 15 people drowned trying to swim to safety across a river. Another witness said many more were killed by gunmen who surrounded the town after arriving in pickup trucks and motorcycles.
Borno is one of three states under a state of emergency because of the five-year insurgency by the armed group Boko Haram, which is trying to carve out an autonomous state in the country’s north to be governed under its extremist version of Islamic law
A military source, who spoke to a colleague in Damasak, said the rebels tried to attack the town last week.
"They came back today in large numbers, but our troops cannot curtail them," the source said.