A 12-hour long attack on a town in the north east of Nigeria leaves at least 300 dead after gunmen suspected of being Boko Haram terrorists opened fire in a market before attacking local homes.
Nigerian newspaper the Vanguard reported online that attackers in armoured vehicles had stormed Gamborou Ngala town in Borno state on Monday afternoon.
The militants were said by ThisDay newspaper to have sprayed gunfire into the crowds at a busy market. They were then said to have moved into the town itself where they set shops and homes ablaze and gunned down residents as they tried to escape the flames.
Resident Maulum Kolo said: “I cannot give the exact number of casualties but based on the numbers of dead bodies I saw this morning, before leaving for Maiduguri, over 200 persons were killed because the terrorists came in a convoy and started shooting everywhere and throwing bombs in different houses.”
Another resident, Bana Bukar Kulima, who had also fled to Maiduguri, said: “Myself and other fleeing residents counted about 300 dead bodies after we came out of hiding this morning. Many people also sustained serious injuries while over 100 houses were razed.”
Some 500 vehicles were also destroyed.
Local Senator Ahmed Khalifa Zanna told Channel 4 News that the insurgents had struck after the Nigerian military and local civilian volunteers had left the town after receiving intelligence about the whereabouts of the schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in Chibok three weeks ago: “They left the city unattended, so the insurgents got the opportunity and came in on Monday afternoon.”
Senator Zanna said between five and six thousand men and women had been killed in attacks in this year alone: “This has been going on for some time.. and we have not been getting much attention from the international community until the abduction of these girls.”
The disappearance of nearly 300 schoolgirls, kidnapped by Boko Haram from their school in the town of Chibok in the north eastern Borno state, has now become a worldwide cause celebre, with David Cameron describing the incident as “pure evil” in the House of Commons.
Speaking to Channel 4 News Senator Zanna said he doubted that the Nigerian military would be able to free the girls safely without help and called for the international community to step in.
On Wednesday it was revealed that Britain is to send a small team of experts to Nigeria to help with the response to the kidnap, while police in Nigeria offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to the rescue of the girls.
The schoolgirls were taken three weeks ago and concerns over their fate have grown since the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, claimed in a video the girls were being held as slaves, threatening to “sell them in the market”.
In a separate incident eight more girls, aged between 12 and 15, were said by residents to have been kidnapped from another school in the village of Warabe, also in the troubled north east of Nigeria.
President Obama has described the kidnappings as an “outrageous situation,” saying “this may be the event that helps to mobilise the entire international community to finally do something against this horrendous organisation that’s perpetrated such a terrible crime.”
Two bomb attacks claimed by Boko Haram have killed almost 100 people in the capital city Abuja in the last month.
The ongoing violence is an unwelcome distraction for the Nigerian government which is hosting the World Economic Forum from Wednesday night.
Officials had been hoping the high-profile conference would emphasise the potential of Africa’s biggest economy as an investment destination.