Boko Haram in 'despicable' attack

LAGOS - Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants in north-eastern Nigeria, officials and witnesses say.

Gunmen rampaged through the village of Azaya Kura in the Mafa area in Borno state, killing at least 45 people.

Shettima Lawan, caretaker chairman of the local government, called it "wicked and despicable", AFP reports.

Boko Haram has taken control of a series of towns and villages in north-eastern Nigeria in recent weeks.

Authorities have struggled to defeat the militant Islamist group, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed more than 2,000 civilians already this year.

Muhammed Gava, the leader of a vigilante fighter group, told the Associated Press that heavily armed Boko Haram militants surged through Azaya Kura in several vehicles on Wednesday.

"We counted 45 bodies at the end of the attack," village chief Mallam Bulama told AFP.

But others may have died after they fled into the bush, residents said.

The village is about 40km (25 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state.

In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, vowing to crush the Islamist insurgency.

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