BAUCHI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram extremists have kidnapped about 40 boys and young men and killed scores of soldiers in a bold attack on a multinational military base in northeast Nigeria, according to fleeing residents and an intelligence officer.
The militants came to the remote village of Malari on Friday and urged people to come out and listen to a sermon, farmer Bulama Malam told reporters Saturday.
"After telling us that they wanted to preach to us, they began to select young men aged between 12 and 25," Malam said. "I was lucky to escape because they only selected very young and able-bodied men."
He spoke in Maiduguri, the capital of northeast Borno state, to which he escaped on foot.
On Saturday, hundreds of the insurgents nearly overran the Multinational Joint Task Force base at Baga, on Nigeria's northeast border with Chad, an intelligence officer told The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters.
The multinational force includes soldiers from Nigeria and its neighbors to the north and northeast: Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Nigeria's homegrown Boko Haram group has begun regionalizing the conflict, launching several attacks across the border in Cameroon in recent weeks.
Boko Haram has increased the scope and number of its attacks since Nigeria's military in October announced that the insurgents had agreed to a cease-fire. Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, denied that in a video.
The insurgents drew international condemnation with the April kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls. The U.S., Britain, France and others sent intelligence officers, hostage negotiators and drone flights to help find the girls to no avail. Dozens of the girls escaped on their own, but 219 remain missing.
The failure to rescue the girls has brought international condemnation also for Nigeria's military and President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for re-election on Feb. 14.
Hundreds of other boys, girls, young men and women have been kidnapped by the insurgents. Some who escaped say the males are forced to fight for Boko Haram, while females are used as sex slaves and suicide bombers.
Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Johannesburg.