Maiduguri, Nigeria: A new Boko Haram massacre has killed hundreds in Nigeria’s north-east, as police offered a 50 million naira ($324,600) reward for information leading to the rescue of more than 200 schoolgirls held hostage by the Islamists.
The latest insurgent attack targeted the town of Gamboru Ngala on the border with Cameroon, where gunmen this week razed scores of buildings and fired on civilians as they tried to flee.
Area Senator Ahmed Zanna put the death toll at 300, citing information provided by locals, in an account supported by numerous residents.
Abubakar Shekau, believed to be the leader of Boko Haram, is seen here in a still from a video the group released earlier this week.
Zanna said the town had been left unguarded because the soldiers based there had been redeployed north towards Lake Chad in an effort to rescue the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram on April 14.
The shocking mass abduction has sparked global outrage and offers of help from the United States, Britain, France and China.
Nigeria’s response to the kidnappings has been widely criticised, including by activists and parents of the hostages who say the military’s search operation has been inept so far.
The police on Monday offered the reward for any information leading to the girls’ rescue.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has sought to appear more engaged with the plight of the hostages in recent days, especially after Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau released a video threatening to sell the girls as "slaves".
In a second kidnapping, eleven more girls aged 12 to 15 years were seized on Sunday from Gwoza, an area not far from Chibok and also in Borno state, Boko Haram’s base.
US President Barack Obama has described the Chibok abductions as "heartbreaking" and "outrageous", and announced that a team of military experts had been sent to help Nigeria’s rescue mission.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday condemned the kidnappers as "pure evil" as his office said Britain was sending a team of experts to help with the kidnap response.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a "special team" was at Nigeria’s disposal, while Jonathan said that visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has also pledged assistance.
Analysts said Jonathan’s acceptance of Western military assistance suggested an admission he can no longer manage the Boko Haram uprising without help.
Just a few hours before the mass abduction in Chibok, a blast ripped through a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, killing 75 people in the deadliest attack to hit the capital.
Jonathan had hoped that a World Economic Forum summit which opens in Abuja on Wednesday would highlight Nigeria’s economic progress and underline its recent emergence as Africa’s biggest economy.
Meeting Jonathan in Abuja ahead of the summit, China’s Li pledged stronger cooperation with Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, but public focus has remained fixed on Boko Haram.