Nearly 150 people have been killed by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigerian villages, witnesses said Thursday. AFP quoted witnesses as saying the rebels mowed down men and children while they prayed in mosques and shot women preparing food at home.
Dozens of militants reportedly stormed three remote villages in the flashpoint Borno state on Wednesday evening, setting houses ablaze in the bloodiest day of attacks by the extremist group since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May.
Gunmen killed at least 97 people in Kukawa, the worst-affected village, a local who gave his name as Kolo and who said he had counted the bodies told AFP.
"They wiped out the immediate family of my uncle... They killed his children, about five of them," Kolo said. A fisherman who witnessed the attack corroborated the death toll. Babami Alhaji Kolo, another witness in Kukawa who fled to the state capital Maiduguri, said more than 50 militants had stormed the village.
"The terrorists first descended on Muslim worshippers in various mosques who were observing the Maghrib prayer shortly after breaking their fast," he said. "They... opened fire on the worshippers who were mostly men and young children.
"They spared nobody. In fact, while some of the terrorists waited and set most of the corpses on fire, others proceeded to houses and shot indiscriminately at women who were preparing food," he said. Malami Abdulkareem, an Arabic teacher in Kukawa, said some of the victims were as young as four."The attackers did not spare even children between four and 12 years old who went to mosques with their fathers.
"I saw at least nine kids who were killed in two mosques," he said.A military source in Maiduguri, who refused to be named, confirmed the attack but could not yet give a death toll.
"The military responded with aerial bombardments on terrorist positions," he said, without giving further details.In two other villages near the town of Monguno, meanwhile, gunmen killed 48 people and injured 11 others, local lawmaker Mohammed Tahir and witnesses told AFP.
Boko Haram militants has reportedly intensified its campaign of violence since Buhari came to power on May 29 vowing to crush the jihadists' bloody uprising that has claimed at least 15,000 lives.
Since then, some 400 people have been killed in attacks blamed on the extremists, who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to an AFP tally.