Islamic militants are reported to have killed as many as 300 people in an attack on a Nigerian border town. Boko Haram assailants are said to have gunned down civilians as they tried to escape intentionally lit fires.
Gunmen in armored vehicles and riding motorcycles stormed the town of Gamboru Ngala, Borno state, late Tuesday and into the early hours of Wednesday, razing much of the area and opening fire as survivors fled.
Local newspapers and regional Senator Ahmed Zannah reported that some 300 people had been killed in the attack, staged after government soldiers were redeployed away from the town, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of the state capital, Maiduguri.
Zannah told the AP news agency that the attack had lasted some 12 hours, and that it had been carried out by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.
The militants were reported to have sprayed bullets into a crowded nighttime market place, set fire to homes and gunned people down as they fled the flames.
"I have been in constant touch with Gamboru (Ngala)," Zannah said. "From information reaching me from the town, the death toll from the attack is around 300," he added.
"All economic and business centers have been burnt. The market in the town, which attracts traders from all over the area ... has been completely burnt," he added.
Security gap exploited
Government troops that had been stationed in the area around Gamboru Ngala had been moved north to help with efforts to rescue 200 girls abducted from a school by Boko Haram.
On Wednesday, Boko Haram was reportedly negotiating a deal to free the girls, who were taken from their school in the northeastern part of the country on April 14.
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday told reporters that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan had accepted Washington's offer for assistance to find the girls, with local security forces already stretched.
Obama confirmed that the US had sent a team of experts of "military, law enforcement and other agencies," to assist.
Parents of some of the girls say they have learned their daughters were forced to marry their captors. Boko Haram fighters claim two of the hostages have already died from snake bites.