Reports are emerging that as many as 2,000 civilians might have been killed by Boko Haram fighters in the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga this week, though other sources say that this number could be hugely overestimated.
Musa Alhaji Bukar, a local official, described a scene of devastation to the BBC. He said that bodies lay across Baga's streets, after the militant group raided and razed the town on Wednesday. This news comes following Boko Haram's capture of the multinational military base at Baga on Saturday, a strategic outpost that represented the last bastion of government control in northern Borno State, a region which has been overrun by the insurgency.
Bukar said he had heard from fleeing residents that the town was now "virtually non-existent" and that those who had escaped were forced to desert the victims without burying their bodies.
However, an NGO researcher in Nigeria told VICE News that she had heard from various sources — including one inside the Ministry of Defence — that the number of new fatalities in Baga could be considerably lower, though she couldn't independently confirm those claims.
Information emerging about the situation in the town is very hard to verify and any help for the residents appears non-existent. It also seems that Boko Haram has been deliberately destroying communications infrastructure in this region for many months, with particular attention being paid to ensuring information could not travel to or from the multinational military base.
In November Mausi Segun, Human Rights Watch's Nigeria reporter, told VICE News that she had heard reports that Boko Haram was demolishing telephone infrastructure near Baga to prevent any information about attacks being released in time for an intervention.
Boko Haram currently control an area of around 30-35,000 square kilometers (18-21,000 square miles) in northern Nigeria, according to TIME.
The militant group has said it aims to establish a caliphate in the northern states, and has carried out a horrific range of attacks on towns and villages, raids, kidnapping children and civilians of both genders, and suicide bombings.
Speaking to VICE News earlier this week, former US ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell spoke of the situation for northeast residents as reminiscent of "a plague on both your houses," saying that civilians "feel squeezed by military abuses on one hand, and Boko Haram abuses in the other."
Nigerian elections are scheduled for February 14 and security is one of the major issues being debated.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Defence Headquarters has told politicians that they're better off staying out of it. In the last press release posted on their website, they warned politicians against "using the medium of political campaign to undermine [the army's] system."
"Individuals and interest groups seeking to play to the gallery by being meddlesome, sensational or mischievous in interpreting developments in the military are advised to moderate their activities with some decorum," the statement said.
It continued: "The Nigerian military reiterates its commitment to defending the nation's democracy."
To date, thousands of Nigerians have been killed by Boko Haram and around 1.5 million people have been displaced by the conflict.
Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd