BAUCHI, Nigeria (Reuters) - Boko Haram militants fleeing a Nigerian army offensive killed 21 people on Friday in attacks near the village of Chibok, close to where the rebels abducted more than 200 schoolgirls last year, a military source said.
The rebels were fleeing a land and air offensive to clear them out of the Sambisa forest when they raided the smaller villages of Gatamarwa, Makalama and Layhawul and opened fire at random on terrified residents, the source said.
Nigerian warplanes bombarded insurgent training camps and caches of their weapons and vehicles in Sambisa on Thursday.
The security source said the insurgents were fleeing that operation and others in the area and had taken revenge on the civilian population as they escaped.
"They surrounded the market and started shooting," said Chibok resident and farmer Maina Chibok, who did not witness the attack but visited the Gatamarwa area afterwards. "There was pandemonium everywhere and more than 10 people were killed."
"They surrounded the market and started shooting, there was pandemonium everywhere and more than 10 people were killed.
The villages are in the local government area of Chibok, where in April last year heavily armed Boko Haram militants attacked a girls secondary school at exam time and carted pupils away in trucks.
The attacks triggered global outrage and President Goodluck Jonathan, who faces an election on March 18, was pilloried for his administration's perceived slow response to the crisis. The girls remain in captivity.
(Reporting by Lanre Ola; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Tom Heneghan)