Boko Haram gunmen have torched almost an entire village near the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok from where over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped last April, a resident who fled and a local elder said Tuesday.
The raid in Takulashi village happened on Sunday and saw Boko Haram fighters also loot food supplies, two days after the group also stole more than 200 cattle from the same location.
Recent months have seen a reduction in such hit-and-run raids in rural northeast Nigeria, a possible indication that Boko Haram’s ability to strike has been reduced by a months long army counter-offensive to root out the group, which has killed thousands in its quest to carve out a state in the country’s north.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed maintained Tuesday the military was still on track to meet a year-end deadline to end the six-year insurgency.
"I can assure you that by the end of this month, our military would have so much decimated the capacity of Boko Haram that they would not be able to pose the kind of threat they used to pose," he told reporters.
He added: "What the government seeks to achieve and which it will achieve is that by the end of this month ... Boko Haram will not be in a position to hold any territory and say, we are operating from this territory."
But sporadic raids still occur and there is concern about an increase in suicide and bomb attacks, both in Nigeria and in neighboring countries, which have made security analysts doubt the target will be met.
In Takulashi, a group of insurgents on bicycles and on foot invaded the farming and herding community at about 6:00 am (0500 GMT) on Sunday, shooting indiscriminately and setting fire to homes.
"They burnt more than 100 homes in the village. Only five houses were spared the inferno," said a resident who gave his name as David, after fleeing to the nearby town of Askira Uba.
The attackers loaded food supplies onto four vehicles they took from the village and burnt four more they were unable to take with them.
The rest of the supplies were set on fire. "We will have to wait till everybody is back to know if there were any fatalities in the attack," Ayuba Chibok, a community leader in Chibok, told Agence France Presse.
"We are making contacts with the residents who fled to locations where there is a phone network.
In April last year, 12 people were killed when gunmen attacked Takulashi in the wake of the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok by Boko Haram.
Fifty-seven girls escaped soon afterwards but nothing has been seen or heard from the remaining 219 in captivity since a video in May 2014.
In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Mohammed conceded attacks on "soft" targets were more difficult to prevent, as "there is nowhere in the world that you end this kind of thing overnight.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, who voiced a similar opinion in September, indicated to his military commanders Monday that the deadline targeting the insurgency’s end should still serve as a "guide.”
Separately, the military announced Monday it had killed an unspecified number of Boko Haram fighters "attempting to escape" from the Sambisa Forest, in Borno state, and near Buni Yadi, in neighboring Yobe.
Guns, improvised explosive devices, ammunition and vehicles were seized, said army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman.
Many Boko Haram fighters are now believed to be hiding on islands on Lake Chad, where Nigeria meets Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Al Jazeera and Agence-France Presse