Maiduguri - Suspected militants killed dozens of civilians in three villages in northeastern Nigeria, a security source and a relative of one of the victims said on Wednesday, where almost daily deadly attacks have intensified over the last few weeks.
Gunmen in combat clothing riding on army trucks drove into the villages of Attagara, Agapalawa and Aganjara, in the Gwoza area along the Cameroon border, on Tuesday. Gwoza, in Borno state, is the main stronghold of militant group Boko Haram.
They opened fire on villagers and burned houses and churches to the ground. Dozens of people were killed in each attack, the security source said, but could not give more precise figures.
Andrew Tada, himself from Attagara but living in Borno state's capital Maiduguri, said he lost two cousins in the attack, noting that residents had told him they were preparing to bury 45 people from that village alone.
"It is very sad and the villages are deserted now," he said. "We are just asking government to give us security to go there tomorrow to evacuate the corpses for burial."
The security source said about three quarters of the people in the three villages were Christians, although he did not know if the attacks had targeted them specifically. Boko Haram often targets Christians and has bombed several churches, although most of its victims have been Muslim.
The group has killed thousands since it started its campaign in 2009 and grabbed world headlines after it abducted more than 200 girls from a secondary school in Borno's Chibok in April.
The mass kidnapping has piled political pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan, who on Thursday ordered a "full-scale operation" against the militants.