MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — An attack by suspected militants from the Boko Haram Islamist group left at least 400 people dead in three villages in northeastern Nigeria, according to local officials.
The attackers, some disguised in military uniforms, raided the villages on June 3 using “sophisticated weapons” and “started killing from house to house,” Abba Aji Khalil, chairman of a local vigilante group set up to combat the militants, said by phone late Wednesday. Yuguda Ndurvua, a local clergyman, said many villages in the area “are being attacked almost on a daily basis.”
The gunmen targeted the villages of Attangara, Agapalwa and Ngoshe, where 37 Islamist militants were killed by a local Christian militia in an ambush on June 1, in reprisal, according to Peter Biye, a lawmaker representing the area in the House of Representatives.
Boko Haram’s violent campaign to impose Islamic law in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, is attracting growing international condemnation, especially after the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in April. Recent attacks condemned by world leaders are only the latest in a five-year conflict that has left thousands dead.
The United States is among several countries to send advisers and military personnel to help with the search for the missing girls.
President Goodluck Jonathan, whose government has come under fire for failing to crush the insurgency or prevent the kidnapping of the girls, has sought to highlight ties between Boko Haram and al-Qaida, and call it a continent-wide threat. His critics say it’s mostly an internal Nigerian issue.
Jonathan prayed Wednesday with Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who visited the capital, Abuja.
The Archbishop, the most senior bishop in the Anglican denomination of Christianity, “paid a pastoral call on President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja to express his personal pain and condolence about the ongoing terrorism affecting parts of North Nigeria,” Welby said on his website.
The vast majority of people Boko Haram has killed have been villagers in the majority-Muslim northeast, though the group has also carried out attacks in the capital, Abuja.
“When the attackers came, most residents thought they were military personnel,” said Ibrahim Ngalamuda, a resident of Attangara who survived the attack. “They said they were here to protect us and got people to gather in the center of the village before they opened fire.”