Armed fighters gunned down dozens of villagers overnight Saturday and slit the throats of others in the latest attack on a northeast Nigerian region where armed group Boko Haram reportedly seeks to establish an independent Islamic state.
There are differing death tolls, with Reuters reporting as many as 90 people killed in Izghe village in Borno state, and the AP reporting around 50 dead. Sunday afternoon, funeral rites were held for 52 Muslim victims at the central mosque in the nearby town of Madagali, mosque officials confirmed. One survivor said Saturday’s attack amounted to 63 dead. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Dozens were killed Tuesday in a similar attack in the same region reportedly by Boko Haram, whose name in the local language means “Western education is sinful.”
In the past week, as least a hundred people have died in sectarian violence in Nigeria.
"As I am talking to you now, all the dead bodies of the victims are still lying in the streets," resident Abubakar Usman told Reuters by telephone. "We fled without burying them, fearing the terrorists were still lurking in the bushes."
Another witness, Lawan Madu, said hundreds of residents had fled.
The spate of violence by Boko Haram, which says it wants to impose Sharia law on a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims, has killed thousands over the past four-and-a-half years. The group is believed to have links to Al-Qaeda.
The survivor speaking anonymously said the attackers looted the village food stores, set ablaze mud homes with thatched roofs and made off with about 10 vehicles.
Survivors said they are among hundreds of people from Izghe and neighboring villages who fled on foot through the bush in the night from Borno into Adamawa, two of three northeast Nigerian states under a state of emergency to halt a 4-year-old Boko Haram uprising.
The area is dotted by mainly Christian villages in a predominantly Muslim region, but Boko Haram has killed Christians and Muslims indiscriminately, with frequent attacks on mosques and churches.
Following attacks by the military against the group, members of the Boko Haram routinely attack civilians.
On Wednesday, the air force began daily aerial bombardments near Izghe of extremist hideouts in the Sambisa Forest along the border with Cameroon.
Soldiers moved in on foot following the bombing and at least nine troops and several militants were killed in a fierce hours-long battle, according to hospital and military sources.
After that attack Maina Ularamu, a local government chairman, urged the military to deploy more troops, saying the soldiers are outnumbered and outgunned by militants armed with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons as well as armored cars looted during attacks.
Dozens more soldiers were stationed in recent days in Madagali town, about 20 miles from the scene of Saturday's attack.
Thousands have been killed and tens of thousands forced from their homes by violence and the state of emergency.
Boko Haram is considered the biggest security risk in Nigeria, Africa's top oil exporter and second-largest economy after South Africa.
On Tuesday, Boko Haram fighters reportedly killed 51 people in an attack on a town in northeast Nigeria, in a region where President Goodluck Jonathan's troops are struggling to contain its rise.
Dozens of Boko Haram fighters speeding along in trucks painted in military colors and armed with automatic weapons and explosives stormed Konduga local government area in Borno state at around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, burning houses and shooting fleeing villagers, two witnesses said.
The insurgents also took 20 young girls from a local college hostage, a teacher said. The military confirmed the attack took place. It was still assessing the number of casualties.
"It is barbaric and unfortunate," Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said when he visited the town on Wednesday.
"About 60 to 70 percent of the town has been burnt down but we are willing to rebuild it," he added, pledging to spend 100 million naira, $609,000, on emergency materials.
The violence in the northeastern corner of the country came as tension in the country’s capital of Abuja has ramped up in recent days following the passing of legislation that criminalizes homosexuality in Nigeria. On Saturday, a group of people armed with wooden clubs and iron bars attacked young men, and four of the victims were marched to a police station where officers allegedly kicked, punched and yelled pejoratives at them, a human rights activist said.
Al Jazeera and wire services