By Lanre Ola
GUBIO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Boko Haram militants have killed at least 43 people in a five-hour assault on the town of Gubio in northeastern Nigeria's Borno state, witnesses said on Tuesday.
Thousands of people have been killed and several million displaced in a six-year Boko Haram insurgency that once saw the group control an area the size of Belgium in the northeast of Africa's biggest oil producer. But the Islamist insurgents have since lost most of their gains to military counter-offensives.
The latest attack, which a military source said involved a convoy of around 50 Boko Haram members storming Gubio, lasted for around five hours on Saturday afternoon and ended about 9.30 p.m., local resident Malam Yusuf Mohammed said.
Details of such attacks often take a number of days to surface outside of the affected areas due to poor telecommunications in the remote northeastern region of Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy and most populous nation.
Mohammed estimated that more than 400 houses had been burned by the insurgents.
"They came, shooting, threatening to kill everybody. They set fire on many houses, burnt down our peoples' vehicles and motorcycles. We lost 43 people including two children," Abubakar Mondama, leader of a local vigilante group, told journalists.
Boko Haram has been driven out of nearly all the territory it captured by a series of offensives waged by Nigeria's armed forces backed by those from the neighboring states of Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the past few months. Remaining militants have retreated into northeastern Nigeria's Sambisa forest.
(Reporting by Lanre Ola; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Mark Heinrich)