More than five dozen people have been killed in Nigeria by members of Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group, in a series of gun and bomb attacks.
The Red Cross said that at least 63 people died in Damaturu, a town in the northeastern part of the country. The killers’ targets included eight churches (one of which was burnt down) as well as state police headquarters in Yobe.
Reportedly, the attacks lasted for 90 minutes and included running gun battles with security forces.
One witness to the massacre told Reuters: This place was like a war zone last night. There is no single policeman on the street now, the attacks destroyed mosques and churches, I have seen many injured persons in the hospital. There were dozens of dead bodies, and no vehicles on the road. I'm staying in my shop and praying.
According to Agence France Presse, local officials said there were hundreds of wounded people in the local hospital in Damaturu.
Boko Haram, which took responsibility for the spate of killings, told a Nigerian newspaper it will continue to hit more government targets.
We will continue attacking federal government formations until security forces stop their excesses on our members and vulnerable civilians, a spokesman for Boko Haram told the paper.
In the nearby city of Maiduguri, a recent flurry of attacks on security forces was also blamed on Boko Haram.
Other reports claimed there were similar attacks in the nearby town of Potiskum.
Boko Haram's name roughly translates into Western education is a sin, and the latest violence is part of an ongoing religious movement to make Nigeria a Muslim state under Sharia law.
Jonah Fisher, a BBC correspondent in Lagos Nigeria, commented: “The attack on Damaturu directly contradicts the government's oft repeated line that they are about to ‘solve’ Nigeria's Boko Haram problem. Perhaps that is why it has been so hard to get an official comment. Far from disappearing, Nigeria's Islamic militants appear to be evolving and gaining strength.”
Fisher added: “The attack on the United Nations building in Abuja in August shocked many because it showed Boko Haram no longer regarded their enemy as being just the Nigerian security forces. These attacks on Damaturu are Boko Haram's bloodiest strike to date. The main target was once again the police but the scope and power of the assault certainly does not suggest a problem that's about to go away.”