Eyewitnesses have told the Associated Press that Islamic extremist group Boko Haram attacked the northeastern Nigerian town of Damboa before dawn on Friday, "piling up corpses" and setting half the town, just 53 miles from Borno state capital Maiduguri, ablaze.
Residents had been preparing for the 5 a.m. prayers when the group attacked. The civilian defense fighters had only clubs and homemade shotguns to fight back, according to the AP.
This attack follows two weeks of violence surrounding Damboa, which began when the extremists attacked a new tank battalion base on July 4. Though the Defense Ministry reported a win, saying they killed 50 insurgents and repelled the attack, locals told the AP the soldiers had actually been driven from the base and that extremists have twice ambushed military convoys attempting to reenter in the past week.
The efforts of Boko Haram (which means "Western education is sinful") have resulted in thousands of deaths in recent years. In April, the group abducted more than 200 girls from their boarding school in Chibok. The U.S., U.K., China, France, and Israel have sent military assistance to help Nigeria rescue the schoolgirls.