Suspected Boko Haram militants have seized a military base in northeastern Nigeria in a series of blistering raids near Lake Chad, sending soldiers and civilians fleeing on Sunday.
Local residents reported that the gunmen killed several people, burnt hundreds of homes and looted scores of businesses in attacks, although there was no official death toll.
The Islamists are believed to control large swathes of land in northeastern Nigeria since launching an uprising in 2009 that has now claimed more than 13,000 lives.
The base outside the town of Baga (a town in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno) is used by the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which was established in 1998 to battle cross-border crime but whose mandate was expanded to fighting the deadly Boko Haram insurgency.
The gunmen seized the base near Lake Chad after engaging troops in a fierce battle that lasted several hours as per the witnesses.
“The militants overwhelmed the troops and forced them to abandon the base which the gunmen took over” local residents told an international news agency after fleeing to neighbouring Chad.
Hundreds of fear-stricken residents from Baga, five other Nigerian towns and fishing villages poured into Chad to escape the Islamist raids on their homes, witnesses said.
Maina Maaji Lawan, the senator representing northern Borno where Baga is located, confirmed the attack on the military base and other five locations.
“Boko Haram insurgents launched attacks in Baga area on Saturday, destroying six towns and several settlements, forcing the people in the affected places to flee into Chad. They came in unbelievably large numbers and overpowered the multinational troops and local vigilantes. They took over the multinational troop base in Baga and sent the soldiers fleeing” Lawan told the news agency.
Residents of Kauyen Kuros, Mile 3, Mile 4, Baga, Doron-Baga and Bundaram fled across the lake in fishing boats and canoes into Chad following the hours-long attacks by hundreds of militants from the Islamist group.