Hundreds of people may have been killed in a suspected Boko Haram attack on four villages in northeast Nigeria, a local lawmaker and residents said today.
Gunmen in military uniform struck Goshe, Attagara, Agapalwa and Aganjara in the Gwoza district of Borno state late on Tuesday, razing homes, churches and mosques and killing residents who tried to flee the violence.
Some community leaders put the death toll in the attacks as high as 400 to 500, although there was no independent verification of the claim because of poor communications and difficulties by the emergency services in accessing the area.
If confirmed, the attack would be one of the deadliest in the Islamists' five-year insurgency and top the more than 300 who were killed on May 5 when militant fighters laid siege to the nearby town of Gamboru Ngala.
"The killings are massive but nobody can give a toll for now because nobody has been able to go to that place because the insurgents are still there. They have taken over the whole area," lawmaker Peter Biye said.
"There are bodies littered over the whole area and people have fled," added Biye, who represents Gwoza in Nigeria's lower chamber of parliament the House of Representatives.
Reports from the remote region near the border with Cameroon said that the insurgents continued their attack throughout Wednesday, stealing livestock and food and burning property.
"Hundreds of dead bodies are lying there... because there is nobody that will bury them," said one community leader in Attagara, who requested anonymity.
The community leader said the area was facing a grave "humanitarian crisis" while others called for relief agencies to be allowed in to enable the dead to be buried.