Boko Haram jihadists killed at least 11 people, burnt a church and seized a priest on Christmas Eve in Nigeria’s restive northeast, local sources told AFP.
Security agencies had in recent days warned of an increased risk of attack during the holiday season.
Fighters in trucks and motorcycles stormed Pemi, a predominantly Christian village in Borno state Thursday, shooting “indiscriminately” and setting buildings on fire, said Abwaku Kabu, a militia leader.
In many parts of Nigeria, communities have resorted to armed vigilantes or militias, who work alongside the army, for self-defence.
“The terrorists killed seven people, burnt 10 homes and looted food supplies that were meant to be distributed to residents to celebrate Christmas,” Kabu said.
“Four more dead bodies have been found in the nearby bushes by search and rescue volunteers,” local community leader Ayuba Alamson said. “This has moved the death toll to 11.”
The number of dead could rise as villagers fled to the bush and some people are still unaccounted for.
The assailants, who drove from the group’s nearby Sambisa forest enclave, looted medical supplies from a hospital before setting it ablaze, the militia leader said, adding they also burnt a church and abducted a priest. They stole medical supplies from a hospital, before setting it on fire.
The village is located only 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls six years ago.
In a separate raid on Thursday, gunmen attacked another Christian community in Garkida in the neighbouring Adamawa state, looting drug stores and food supplies before torching homes, residents told AFP.
There were no reports of casualties.
Nigeria’s security agency had earlier this week asked Nigerians “to be extra vigilant and report strange movements.”
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement Thursday “reiterated the promise of his administration to remain unyielding in confronting the Boko Haram insurgency as well as other forms of criminality.”
The 78-year-old urged citizens to volunteer “intelligence/information on activities of armed bandits, insurgents and other criminal elements within their communities in order to put an end to this blight.”
The decade-long conflict in Nigeria’s northeast has killed 36,000 people and displaced around two million from their homes, according to the United Nations.
Violence has spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting regional countries to form a military coalition to fight the jihadist groups.
(With inputs from AFP)