Boko Haram seize northeast Nigerian town, dozens killed

Press Association/ Sunday Alamba

Boko Haram militants have seized control of the northeast Nigerian town of Mubi, killing dozens of people and forcing thousands to flee, witnesses said.

The insurgents stormed Mubi on Wednesday and gunfire has been ringing out from the town ever since, witnesses said.

A security source on Thursday confirmed the town had fallen to the insurgents. They also hoisted their black flag over the palace of traditional ruler, witnesses said.

On Wednesday they killed several people in Mubi, burned houses and triggered a gunbattle with security forces, witnesses said.

A security source confirmed the attack and said the military was sending in reinforcements to try to push back the attackers, but he could not confirm details, as operations were ongoing. A spokesman for the military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beatice Elisha, a civil servant trapped in the town, said he heard gunfire north of the town when the attack started earlier in the day. "They were burning houses and many people have died," he said. "There was gunfire all over the place."

Violence in Nigeria's troubled northeast has surged since the government announced a ceasefire with the rebels nearly two weeks ago to pursue talks in neighbouring Chad aimed at freeing more than 200 girls kidnapped in April.

Foreign minister Aminu Wali said on Monday that the surge in violence would not jeopardise the talks, but the government has stressed that five years of insurgency have also become mixed up with broader criminality. And since Boko Haram itself is highly fragmented it is impossible to guarantee all factions will respect the ceasefire.

Suspected Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 17 people and abducted dozens in a series of attacks in the central region of Nigeria's northeast Borno state over the weekend. At least 25 girls were kidnapped from a remote northeastern town a few days earlier.

Boko Haram have killed thousands of people and abducted hundreds of people since launching an uprising against the government of Africa's top oil producer in 2009.