Suspected Boko Haram gunmen on horseback shot dead nearly 80 people in separate attacks on three villages in Nigeria's restive northeast in recent days, a member of a vigilante self-defense group and residents said Monday.
Vigilante Babakura Kolo said 68 people were killed in the attack on Baanu village in Borno state late on Friday while residents said another 11 people were shot dead in two other villages on Saturday and Sunday.
"Reports reached us of an attack on Baanu village late Friday where Boko Haram gunmen riding on horses opened fire on the village,” Kolo told AFP, adding that the gunmen stormed Baanu around 8.30 p.m. local time, shooting sporadically.
Baanu resident Aisami Ari who fled the attack to state capital Maiduguri on Saturday, also confirmed the attack and the death toll.
"The whole village was thrown into confusion and everybody fled," he said.
Kolo also said four people were killed in another attack by Boko Haram in nearby Karnuwa village on Saturday. Local resident Saleh Musa told AFP of a third attack on Hambagda on Sunday where they killed seven villagers and injured five others.
The Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, confirmed the attack in Baanu village during a meeting with the parents of the 219 girls abducted from a school in the region by the extremists last year, but he put the death toll at 56. Thursday marked 500 days of captivity of the girls from a school in Chibok.
"I want us all to understand that the Boko Haram crisis is a calamity that has befallen us, as the insurgents do not discriminate whether somebody is Christian or Muslim, neither do they have any tribal sympathy or affiliations," Shettima told the parents. "Just yesterday they killed 56 people in Baanu village of Nganzai local government, as I am speaking to you their corpses are still littered on the street of the village because virtually everyone in the village had to run for their lives."
He did not provide further details of the attack.
Boko Haram's six-year-old uprising has left an estimated 20,000 people dead. At least 1,000 people have been killed by the group since President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in March with a pledge to wipe them out.
Chadian and Nigerian troops have driven the group out of some 25 towns held for months in an area Boko Haram had declared an Islamic caliphate. Since then, the group, who in March pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have gone back to hit-and-run tactics and suicide bombings largely in the country's north.