Yola — Gunmen attacked Shuwa and Michika towns in Adamawa State on Wednesday night, killing dozens of people and destroying homes and government offices, the latest in a string of insurgency raids in parts of the North-East.
The violence came two days after at least 29 college students were killed in Yobe State, which had also seen previous attacks by suspected Boko Haram fighters.
Heavily armed attackers stormed the two Adamawa towns in many Hilux pick-up trucks and opened fire, causing residents to scatter in different directions, survivors said.
The attackers shot at fleeing people, killing at least 28 of them according to some accounts. Other accounts put the death toll as high as 37.
Residents said soldiers manning check points in the area melted into the nearby bushes as soon as the shooting started, leaving villagers at the mercy of the insurgents.
As a result, the gunmen spent hours killing and destroying, unchallenged.
Witnesses said the attackers burnt a church and a theological school, and killed 17 people in Shuwa of Madagali Local Government Area, before proceeding to Michika town where they killed more.
A report by the Associated Press news agency said the violence first started around 8.30pm Wednesday in Kirchinga village, near the border with Cameroon, with insurgents in a convoy of 13 pickup trucks shooting.
Villagers fled but the attackers pursued them to neighboring Shuwa town, according to survivors.
"When the soldiers at the military checkpoints saw the number of the attackers, they retreated into the nearby bushes as the gunmen operated without challenge during the operation that lasted throughout the night," said a pastor in Shuwa, quoted by AP press agency.
A Daily Trust correspondent reported that in Michika, the insurgents killed four more people, torched a police station, three bank buildings, Michika Local Government secretariat building as well as several houses and shops in an attack that lasted for hours.
A resident of Shuwa, Mr Kwaje Bitrus, told Daily Trust: "The gunmen attacked many places in Shuwa including the bishop's house, the theological school and the houses of some prominent personalities."
The chairman of Madagali Local Government Area, Mr. Maina Ularamu, confirmed the incident to our reporter saying that the gunmen attacked schools, residential houses, banks and a police station. He later told the BBC Hausa radio that 17 people were killed in Shuwa.
Similarly, the chairman of Michika Local Government Area, Vandi Favanza, confirmed the death of three people and burning of the offices of First Bank, Union Bank and a microfinance bank.
A Michika resident, Fadima Isa, said the casualties cannot be ascertained as the fear-stricken residents are just returning to their homes from the bush.
"We ran to the bush since 11pm yesterday, so people are trying to find out what happened to their family members who were not with them in the bush," she said.
A spokesman for the 23rd Armoured Brigade in Yola, Captain Jafaru Nuhu, confirmed the attacks but declined further comments.
The recent wave of violence came amidst widespread criticism of military failures in spite of a state of emergency proclaimed in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in May last year.
Elders in Borno State, which is the worst hit by the insurgency, accused President Goodluck Jonathan of not doing enough to contain the insurgency.
The Yobe and Borno governor have also urged the president to take the fight on Boko Haram more seriously by deploying more troops and better military hardware.
But the military and President Jonathan have insisted that troops have the upper hand in the fighting, though recent mass death tolls and frequency of attacks challenge those claims. This year alone, hundreds of people have been killed in the three states.
Reports of Wednesday night's incident in Adamawa filtered out yesterday on the day Jonathan hosted world leaders for a security summit in Abuja, as part of Nigeria's centenary celebrations.
The visiting African and European leaders condemned the insurgency attacks and expressed solidarity with Nigeria.
In a keynote address, French President Francois Hollande said Nigeria's struggles are France's struggles, and pledged support for Nigeria's fight against terrorism.