Militants with the deadly Boko Haram extremist group have burned down six northeast Nigerian villages and killed 37 people near the insurgents' Sambisa Forest stronghold, a survivor has revealed.
Ahmed Ajimi, a fighter in the anti-Boko Haram Nigerian Vigilante Group, described how on Wednsday night, the insurgents rode into the village on four-wheel vehicles, shooting at fleeing locals and hurling firebombs into village huts.
"It was really horrifying," Ajimi said, revealing that many of the victims of the jihadist's attack were farmers who had recently returned home after soldiers earlier this year forced the extremists out of the area where they had declared an Islamic caliphate. Those who escaped were mostly women, he added, who said the insurgents killed their husbands and burnt down their houses.
"At least 37 persons were killed in coordinated attacks on the six villages and they were mostly men and youths and their homes razed down completely," he said, naij.com reported. "The women said many people were still missing but they believed that they will still come to Damboa or Biu town so that they can reunite with their families. I must say Boko Haram has almost wiped out everybody. ''
Reports of the deadly attack emerged less than a day after new President Muhammadu Buhari held a summit with regional counterparts to set up a joint military force to counter Boko Haram.
Since 2005, the extremist group has killed thousands and left around 1.5 million displaced in an attempt to create a caliphate, or Islamic state, in northeastern Nigeria.
Last week, reports emerged that the terror group had slaughtered dozens of people, including scores of Christians, in a series of violent village raids.
"They destroyed the telephone mast first before invading our community - this was to prevent us from telephoning and requesting help," said one pastor from the Pambula-Kwamda Christian community in Adamawa's Madagali local government area.
"They killed 10 members of our church [Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, or EYN] using machetes and then slaughtering them."
According to UNICEF, at least 743,000 children have been uprooted by the conflict in Nigeria in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa alone. The U.N. has also said that the Islamic militants continue to use women and girls in its suicide bombing attacks.
"Children are not instigating these suicide attacks; they are used intentionally by adults in the most horrific way; they are, first and foremost, victims not perpetrators," UNICEF representative Jean Gough said, the Christian Post reported.
Earlier this week, the group kidnapped more than 1,000 children and used some of them in neighboring Cameroon as human shields, prompting a U.N. official to condemn its actions as "inhuman."
"To my knowledge, the children were used as human shields ... [and] were aged between eight and 12," Najat Rochdi, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Cameroon, told AFP.
"The system they use is just inhuman," Rochdi added.