Bauchi, Nigeria: Boko Haram destroyed at least 16 towns and villages in a major attack in northeast Nigeria, local officials said on Thursday, as President Goodluck Jonathan kicked off his campaign for re-election, AFP reported.
There were fears of heavy casualties in the Wednesday assault in the remote north of Borno state, which came after the militants captured the town of Baga in Borno state for the second time in a week, forcing at least 20,000 people to flee.
According to Irish Times, extremists killed more than 2,000 people in the span of two days. Insurgents started shooting indiscriminately and burnt buildings raiding the city of Baga.
Although this report in Vice News, sources said the reports could be largely overestimated and they put the number of deaths in hundreds
In a fresh indication of the scale of the rebellion, Musa Bukar, senior government official in the area, said petrol bombs and explosives were used to destroy Baga and nearby settlements.
Quoting Bukar, this BBC report said that the villagers told officials that the villages were "non-existant" after the massacre.
"We have over 20,000 people displaced from Baga and surrounding villages in a camp in Maiduguri and we are making arrangements to convey another 10,000 from Monguno where they ran to," he added.
Abubakar Gamandi, head of Borno's fish traders union and a Baga native, also confirmed the latest attacks after local, uncorroborated reports of mass casualties.
He said 560 villagers had been stranded on an island on Lake Chad since Boko Haram first attacked in a victory which handed them control of all of Borno's borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
"They told me that some of them are dying from lack of food, cold and malaria on the mosquito-infested island," he said.
"I was in constant touch with them until this morning when the phone they were using went off which I assume was due to dead battery."
The capture of Baga -- the last government-controlled town in northern Borno — and the number of displaced again lays bare the problem facing election organisers.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes by the conflict in the northeast, with insecurity preventing them from returning to vote in their towns and villages.
The APC has said the integrity of the result will be in doubt if the displaced are unable to cast their ballot.
A bill is currently going through parliament to allow those in refugee camps inside Nigeria to participate in the electoral process.
News that the insurgents had returned to the town and surrounding settlements in the Lake Chad region came as Jonathan launched his bid for a second term at a mass rally in Lagos.
An Associated Press report quoted Nigeria's chief of defense staff as acknowledging that the headquarters of a multinational military force on Nigeria's border with Chad has been seized by Islamic extremists.
Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh told reporters that only Nigerian troops were at the key base at Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad, when insurgents attacked Saturday because Niger and Chad had withdrawn their fighters from the base.
"Chad had people on their own side but I believe they have withdrawn. Niger had people with us. They too withdrew, and left Nigeria only at the Multinational Joint Task Force headquarters," Badeh said at a briefing after a security meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
A senior military officer in northeast Nigeria said troops from Niger, Chad and Cameroon withdrew from Nigeria months ago. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, the Associated Press report added.
With inputs from Agencies
Published Date: Jan 09, 2015 17:10 PM | Updated Date: Jan 09, 2015 17:11 PM