Several people died when Nigeria's army repelled an attack Sunday by suspected Boko Haram fighters on a village near the northeastern city of Maiduguri, residents and military sources told Reuters. The Associated Press reported that at least 15 people were killed, but the toll was feared many times higher.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard in the evening outside Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and birthplace of Boko Haram's insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of Africa's most populous nation.
Gunmen firing indiscriminately from the back of three trucks attacked the village of Dawari, outside the city, soldiers engaged them, and as people were fleeing, a woman ran into a suburb yelling "Boko Haram, Boko Haram." When people gathered, she detonated herself, village head Bulama Isa told the AP.
Amid the chaos , a rocket-propelled grenade exploded, setting alight grass-thatched huts, and a second woman blew herself up, according to Isa. The village chief, 10 of his children and others were killed.
"We just came out of the mosque after evening prayers, then we started hearing gunshots ... then suddenly there was the sound of a blast," resident Nene Hassan told Reuters, adding that four people died and five were wounded.
Since losing most of the territory it seized earlier this year to the army, Boko Haram has resorted to hitting soft targets such as markets, bus stations and places of worship, as well as hit-and-run attacks on villages, mainly in Borno state.
Another witness of Sunday's attack, Mustapha Ahmadu, said at least seven people had been killed. "More body parts are just lying everywhere," he said.
The village was set on fire during the shootout between the army and the gunmen, said Alhaji Jiddari, another resident.
The area is close to Giwa Barracks, a military base attacked several times in the past by the rebels. In January 2014, Boko Haram attacked the base and freed hundreds of detainees. Nigeria's military is accused by human rights groupsof killing thousands of detainees there.
The insurgency in Nigeria, which the government says it is defeating, has killed thousands and displaced more than 2 million people in the remote northeast.