Boko Haram 'in deadly raid on NE Nigeria town'

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - Boko Haram fighters killed several people and destroyed dozens of homes in a raid on a town in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, local residents, a vigilante and the military said on Sunday.

Scores of Islamist militants in trucks and on motorcycles stormed the town of Gubio, 95 kilometres by road north of the state capital, Maiduguri, on Saturday night.

"Boko Haram invaded our town last night and killed many of our people and burnt more than half of the town," resident Babor Kachalla, who fled to Maiduguri following the attack, told AFP.

"We all fled into the bush amid volleys of bullets and rockets. We lost many people in the attack because the gunmen overpowered the soldiers guarding the town," he added, without specifying a death toll.

Another resident, Adam Kakami, said the attackers, who were dressed in military uniform, withdrew after six hours.

"We stayed in the bush from where we could hear sounds of guns up to 3:00 am (0200 GMT) when the shooting stopped but we could see fire from all over the town," he added.

"We decided not to return and moved towards Maiduguri because we were afraid they would return." Civilian vigilante Babagana Gunda predicted a high death toll because Boko Haram "had a field day".

Last November the rebels invaded Gubio but were repelled by troops and vigilantes guarding the town.

A military officer in Maiduguri, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said reinforcements succeeded in pushing the Islamists out of the town.

"The terrorists suffered heavy casualties but they inflicted large-scale damage on the town as half of it was burnt with rockets fired by the terrorists," he added.

Boko Haram, which wants to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria, has been pushed out of captured towns and territory since February by Nigerian troops with assistance from Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

The six-year conflict has claimed at least 15,000 lives and made more than 1.5 million people homeless.