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Konduga, Nigeria - Boko Haram gunmen killed 43 people and razed scores of homes when they stormed two villages in north-east Nigeria, firing indiscriminately on fleeing civilians, a state governor and witnesses said on Wednesday.
Heavily armed Islamist extremists in 4X4 trucks attacked a mosque, markets and government buildings in a massive assault on Konduga village in the troubled state of Borno on Tuesday.
State governor Kashim Shettima said 39 people were killed in the raid, the latest in a series of attacks in Borno.
Another four people were killed on Tuesday when gunmen opened fire in the village of Wajirko in Borno, the epicentre of a gruesome Islamist rebellion that has killed thousands of people across northern and central Nigeria since 2009.
Wajirko resident Adamu Maude said the attackers destroyed around 50 homes, adding, “we lost four people in the attack and six more have been taken to hospital”.
Boko Haram has said it is fighting to create a strict Islamic state in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.
The southern half of the oil-rich country, Africa's most populous, is mainly Christian.
Shettima told reporters at the scene on Wednesday more than 70 percent of Konduga had been “razed to the ground”.
Another 65 people were being treated for burn and gunshot wounds, a hospital source in the state capital, Maiduguri, told AFP.
Konduga resident Sulaiman Abubakar said 400 gunmen dressed in military fatigues descended on the village at 5.30pm (16h30 GMT) and laid siege for several hours, destroying more than 2 000 homes.
Those figures could not be verified by officials or the security forces, however, and other residents described a lower number of attackers.
Residents who fled the village have been too scared to return, multiple witnesses told AFP.
In the village, bodies - including those of women and children - could be seen lined up in the courtyard of the central mosque.
The walls of the mosque were charred, as were those of a local clinic and a library.
A teacher at a local girls' school who asked to remain anonymous said 20 masked gunmen broke into the compound, threatened the students and ordered them to stop studying and return home.
No students were harmed, but student and staff accommodation was set on fire and the school has been closed indefinitely and all the girls sent home, the teacher said.
Shettima told survivors Boko Haram was “better armed” than the Nigerian military and called for more troops to be sent to the state.
Borno, along with the two neighbouring states of Adamawa and Yobe were placed under a state of emergency in May of last year, when the military launched a major offensive aimed at crushing the Islamist uprising.
But attacks have continued in the north-east, and there have been claims President Goodluck Jonathan's government has not done enough to stem the violence.
Tijjani Peter, a member of vigilante group in Konduga battling Boko Haram with the support of the security forces, said the Islamists had “subdued” soldiers deployed in the area.
“The terrorists had a field day,” he said. “They destroyed everything on site and killed at will.”