An armed group has kidnapped more than 100 women and children after a deadly raid in northeast Nigeria. Suspicion has fallen on Islamist group Boko Haram, which has carried out similar mass abductions in the past.
Officials on Wednesday said that a crowd of heavily armed raiders from the group Boko Haram had stormed the remote village of Gumsuri in Borno state, throwing petrol bombs and destroying buildings.
The insurgents were said to have entered the town in pick-up trucks, firing AK-47s and machine guns.
"They gathered the people, shot dead over 30 people and took away more than 100 women and children in two open-top trucks," villager Maina Chibok told the Reuters news agency. "They also burnt down a government medical centre, houses and shops," Chibok added.
The AFP news agency quoted local officials as saying that at least 185 people had been abducted - a figure reached through contacting families and local leaders.
One local official said the village had been protected by a substantial vigilante force, but that it was overpowered in the attack.
News of kidnappings delayed
Details of the attack are believed to have taken so long to emerge because the regional mobile phone network has collapsed. Roads in the area are also impassable and many of those who escaped made their way across open country to a direct and less dangerous route to the state capital, Maiduguri.
The Islamist group Boko Haram, whose names is roughly translated as "Western education is sinful," is suspected of carrying out the attack, having a history of kidnappings and terror attacks. The group has increasingly used abduction as a tactic to boost its supply of child fighters, supply carriers and young women who are used as sex slaves.
The village - roughly 70 kilometers south of the city of Maiduguri - lies on the road to the town of Chibok, where Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in April.
Soldiers sentenced to death
Nigeria has struggled to contain the uprising unleashed by Boko Haram since 2009, and low morale and lack of weapons has left to a string of desertions in the northeast.
A Nigerian military court martial on Wednesday sentenced 54 soldiers to death for mutiny after they were accused of refusing to fight Boko Haram.
A human rights lawyer acting for the group has said he will take action to prevent the sentence being carried out, claiming that the soldiers - all aged between 21 and 25 - were essentially being sent on a suicide mission.
Cameroon, which is also fighting Boko Haram, announced on Thursday that its soldiers had killed 116 members of the Islamist group a day earlier in the country's Far North region.
rc/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)