MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Suspected Islamic extremists used explosives and heavy guns to attack a village and worshippers during a Christian church service in Nigeria’s northeast, killing at least 99 people and razing hundreds of homes, officials and witnesses said Monday.
The attacks in Borno and Adamawa states resulted in one of the highest death tolls in recent attacks by militants who are defying an 8-month old military state of emergency in three states in northern Nigeria designed to halt an Islamic uprising there.
Attackers set off several explosions in Kawuri village in Borno state after launching their assault near the weekly market as vendors were packing up on Sunday night, the security official said.
He said 52 people died and the entire village was burned down, including 300 homes. He also said two improvised explosive devices thet were left behind went off Monday morning, narrowly missing security personnel who were collecting bodies in Kawuri. The official blamed suspected Boko Haram militants for the attack.
A police official who evacuated wounded victims confirmed at least 52 people were killed and 16 wounded. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not permitted to speak to reporters.
Ari Kolomi, who fled from his village, which is 70 kilometers (45 miles) outside Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, said, “No house was left standing” by the more than 50 extremists who attacked, armed with explosives and guns. Kolomi was searching for relatives in the village to make sure they had survived the attack.
State Police Commissioner Lawan Tanko confirmed the attack but said he was awaiting details on the casualties.
Also on Sunday, suspected militants in Adamawa state, south of Borno, stormed a church during a Sunday morning service in Wada Chakawa village. They fired guns, set off explosives and took residents hostage, said the Rev. Raymond Danbouye, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Yola. He said about two dozen people were killed and buried Monday.
Local Chairman Maina Ularamu said official recovered 45 bodies including those of two police officers. He urged calm, saying: “I believe security operatives are on top of the situation.”
Suspected Boko Haram members set off explosives and fired into the church, then burned houses and took residents hostage during a five-hour siege, residents said.
“They used explosives during the attack on worshippers, and many people lost their lives,” said villager Moses Apogu. Another resident said some people were taken away and later killed.
Brig. Gen. Rogers Nicholas, commander of a local brigade said officials were still tallying the death toll and that troops were deployed to track the attackers.
Nearly 200 people have been killed this month in attacks by suspected members of the Boko Haram terrorist network in the area around Maiduguri. The city is the birthplace of the group, whose name in the local Hausa language means “Western education is forbidden.”
A Jan. 14 car bomb exploded in Maiduguri, killing about 70 people. Officials blamed Boko Haram, though the state governor suggested it was the work of political opponents.
Other attacks have forced the flight of hundreds of villagers in about 30 farming communities around Maiduguri. Some of the displaced are camping on the outskirts of the state capital. More than 5,000 refugees from the violence have fled to Cameroon and Niger this month, the U.N. said last week.
Associated Press reporter Ibrahim Abdulaziz in Yola, Nigeria, and Carley Petesch in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.