Nigeria President Buhari condemns Boko Haram's 'heinous' attacks

Nigeria’s president has described as a “heinous atrocity” the latest wave of attacks by Boko Haram militants that left more than 150 people dead.

Muhammadu Buhari also called for a faster deployment of a regional military force to fight the Islamists.

The gunmen have been launching attacks on remote villages in the north-eastern Borno state since Tuesday, targeting people attending evening prayers.

Mr Buhari – who was sworn in in May – sees fighting Boko Haram as a priority.

According to Amnesty International, at least 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 2009, when Boko Haram launched its violent uprising to try to impose militant Islamist rule.

‘They spared nobody’

These are the worst Boko Haram attacks for many weeks, BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross reports.

In a statement on Friday, President Buhari said the recent attacks were “inhuman and barbaric.”

He said they were “the last desperate acts of fleeing agents of terrorism”.

The assaults began on Tuesday, when the militants shot dead 48 men after they had finished prayers in two villages near the town of Monguno, a resident told BBC Hausa.

He said he had heard gun shots at one of the villages attacked and saw it on fire.

“They were praying in the mosque when Boko Haram attackers descended on the village. They waited till they finished the prayers. They gathered them in one place, separated men from women and opened fire on them,” he said.

On Wednesday, more than 50 gunmen killed 97 people in the village of Kukawa, near Lake Chad, eyewitness Babami Alhaji Kolo was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

“The terrorists first descended on Muslim worshippers in various mosques who were observing the Maghrib prayer shortly after breaking their fast [for the Muslim month of Ramadan],” he said.

“They… opened fire on the worshippers who were mostly men and young children. They spared nobody.”

On Thursday, two female suicide bombers blew themselves up in another Borno village, police said.

Analysis: Will Ross, BBC News, Lagos

No-one knows how many people were shot or had their throats slit by the jihadists who targeted several villages on Tuesday and Wednesday – it is impossible for people who are fleeing for their lives or rushing the injured away in wheelbarrows to stay back and count.

The fact that it took as many as 48 hours for any news of the atrocities to reach the main city in Borno State, Maiduguri, points to just how cut off and vulnerable these communities are.

Boko Haram may no longer hold territory but there is little to celebrate when large swathes of the north-east are clearly not under any kind of government control.

Boko Haram has carried out frequent bombings since it was weakened by a regional military offensive to recapture most of the territory it had controlled.

The group is still holding many women, girls and children captive, including 219 schoolgirls it kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April last year.

Boko Haram at a glance

•    Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
•    Launched military operations in 2009
•    Joined Islamic State
•    Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
•    Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
•    Regional force has retaken most territory

READ ALSO:  Bread makers in Nigeria start four-day strike