DALORI, Nigeria — A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children burning to death, among 86 people officials say died in the latest attack by Nigeria’s homegrown Islamic extremists.
Scores of charred corpses and bodies with bullet wounds littered the streets from Saturday night’s attack on Dalori village and two nearby camps housing 25,000 refugees, according to survivors and soldiers at the scene just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the biggest city in Nigeria’s northeast.
The shooting, burning and explosions from three suicide bombers continued for nearly four hours in the unprotected area, survivor Alamin Bakura said, weeping on a telephone call to The Associated Press. He said several of his family members were killed or wounded.
The violence continued as three female suicide bombers blew up among people who managed to flee to neighboring Gamori village, killing many people, according to a soldier at the scene who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists.
“During the incident lives were lost while some people sustained injuries,” army spokesman Colonel Mustapha Anka said in a statement.
Residents and an aid worker said at least 50 people were killed in the assault which took place after evening prayers in the mostly Muslim region.
Troops arrived at Dalori around 8:40 p.m. Saturday but were unable to overcome the attackers, who were better armed, said soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. The Boko Haram fighters only retreated after reinforcements arrived with heavier weapons, they said.
Journalists visited the carnage Sunday and spoke to survivors who complained it had taken too long for help to arrive from nearby Maiduguri, the military headquarters of the fight to curb Boko Haram. They said they fear another attack.
Eighty-six bodies were collected by Sunday afternoon, according to Mohammed Kanar, area coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency. Another 62 people are being treated for burns, said Abba Musa of the State Specialist Hospital in Maiduguri.
Local residents told AFP they fled into the bush when the Boko Haram fighters descended on Dalori.
“We were seated outside our home shortly after the Isha prayer when we heard gunshots and within a few minutes the invaders had arrived,” Malam Masa Dalori, a community leader, told AFP.
“They came in Golf saloon cars and began to shoot sporadically. Many people ran to the bush including myself,” he said.
“When we came back in the morning the entire community has been razed. At least 50 people were also killed, many others injured,” he said.
Mallam Hassan, another villager, gave a similar account.
“I lost an uncle in the attack. But I thank God I escaped with my children,” he said.
Boko Haram has been attacking soft targets, increasingly with suicide bombers, since the military last year drove them out of towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria.
Boko Haram has kept up a wave of attacks despite President Muhammadu Buhari declaring late last year that Nigeria had “technically” won the war against the group.
Boko Haram fighters have made several attempts to retake Maiduguri — the birthplace of the jihadist movement — since they were pushed out three years ago.
The group which seeks a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria has killed some 17,000 people and forced more than 2.6 million others to flee their homes since 2009.
In the Lake Chad region, which borders Nigeria as well as Chad, Cameroon and Niger, suicide bombers struck two Chadian villages killing three people, a local security official said.
In the first attack in Guie, a bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up, killing one person and injuring 32, while the second attack in the village of Miterine left two dead and 24 wounded, the official said.
Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon have formed a coalition along with Benin to fight Boko Haram and have marshalled a force of 8,700 soldiers, police and civilians.
In retaliation, Boko Haram has launched cross-border attacks from northern Nigeria on the neighboring countries.