Boko Haram razed at least 16 villages in northern Nigeria, leaving 2,000 people unaccounted for and feared dead since Monday, Nigerian officials said Thursday.
The militant group now controls 70 percent of Borno State, Nigeria’s northeastern province. Last May, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno and neighboring Adamawa and Yobe after the group kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, a town in Borno.
Borno state lawmaker Ahmed Khalifa told NBC News that “towns are just gone” and that the the villages along Lake Chad are “covered in bodies.” The village attacks reportedly began after militants seized a key military base and chased residents out of the area. After clearing the villages, they returned to kill survivors and burn down town structures.
With the country’s northeast corner in Boko Haram’s grip, local officials are concerned for the region’s security, especially leading up to the country’s general election on February 14. Governors from the three states under emergency status have requested extra troops from President Jonathan to secure the region.
“Definitely in all those areas where the insurgency exist, elections will hold,” said Yobe state governor Ibrahim Gaidem to Reuters.