MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram extremists bombed out of forest camps are attacking remote northeast Nigerian villages, killing scores and kidnapping hundreds of women and children, survivors said Friday.
Some fleeing villagers said they trampled on the corpses of their neighbors to get away from the militants, who arrived on horseback and motorcycles armed with guns, swords and machetes.
Muhammad Ali, a farmer, said a neighbor told him the extremists took away Ali's wife and two daughters, Maryam, 9, and 3-year-old Halima.
He and other refugees who say the attacks started a week ago in 20 villages along the border between Borno and Yobe states. The news only got through Friday because they walked for days through the bush with roads washed out by rains to reach the safety of Jakana, a village 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Maiduguri. Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram and the biggest city in the northeast.
The refugees, who spoke by telephone to The Associated Press, said the militants also herded away hundreds of cattle and sheep.
A police officer in Jakana said four malnourished children among the 400 refugees have died, and a woman gave birth along the way. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists.
Nigeria's air force has been bombarding camps in Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram's stronghold, as soldiers launched a ground offensive.
The military said they rescued 338 mainly children and women captives in raids Tuesday on the fringes of the forest.
The violence has killed at least 2,000 people this year, hundreds in suicide bombing attacks often carried out by women and girls who may have been kidnapped.
Some Nigerians refuse to be intimidated. An unprecedented congregation of thousands converged for Friday prayers at Jambutu Central Mosque in Yola city, where a suicide bomber killed more than 30 people and wounded 97 a week ago.
Some 20,000 people have died in the 6-year-old Islamic uprising and 2.3 million have been forced from their homes.
Associated Press writer Ibrahim Abdulaziz contributed to this report from Yola, Nigeria.