BAUCHI, Nigeria - Residents of a Nigerian town attacked by Boko Haram criticized security forces for failing to protect them despite warnings that the Islamic militants were nearby. At least 50 bodies have been recovered, many horribly burned, in the town.
The attack on Gamboru, in remote northeastern Nigeria near the border with Cameroon, is part of the Islamic militants' campaign of terror that included the kidnapping of teenaged girls from a school, 276 of whom remain missing and believed held by Boko Haram in the vast Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria.
The death toll from the Monday afternoon attack in Gamboru was initially reported by a senator to be as many as 300, but a security official said it is more likely to be around 100. Some Gamboru residents said bodies were recovered from the debris of burned shops around the town's main market, which was the focus of the attack.
The bodies were found after the market reopened on Wednesday as health workers, volunteers and traders searched for missing people, said Gamboru resident Abuwar Masta. He said most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Some of the victims were traders from Chad and Cameroon, he said.
"It seems they hid in the shops in order not [to] be killed while fleeing," Masta said Wednesday. "Unfortunately, several explosives were thrown into the market." Masta and other traders said that some villagers had warned the security forces of an impending attack after insurgents were seen camping in the bush near Gamboru.
The kidnapping of the schoolgirls on April 15 in the town of Chibok has sparked accusations that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to stop the militants. Boko Haram has killed more than 1,500 people so far this year as part of its campaign to impose Islamic law on Africa's most populous nation, which has 170 million people equally divided between Christian and Muslim.
Outrage over the missing girls and the government's failure to rescue them brought angry Nigerian protesters into the streets this week, an embarrassment for President Goodluck Jonathan's government, which had hoped to showcase the country's emergence as Africa's largest economy as it hosted the Africa meeting of the World Economic Forum, now underway in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Nigeria's military said in a statement Thursday that the armed forces are "focused on the task of rescuing the abducted girls and that the war on Boko Haram "will be effectively prosecuted."