Nigeria's president instructed his military Wednesday to "extract a heavy price" from suspected Boko Haram militants who killed 81 people in a massacre in the country's remote northeast, kidnapping seven others before they fled.
The militants drove into Faduma Koloram village in Gubio district in the northeast state of Borno on Tuesday, opening fire on residents, who said the onslaught lasted for more than two hours. The Nigerian military said many women and children were among the dead.
One survivor told CNN that the attackers had told the villagers they were going to deliver a religious sermon, and asked them to hand over any weapons before they started firing.
"Suddenly, they started shooting at will. Even children and women were not spared. Many were shot at close range," said the villager.
Malam Bunu, the leader of a local defence group, told the Associated Press that the fighters had returned on Wednesday morning to kill a local who had escaped the massacre, and set the village on fire as they left.
Banu said he believed the attackers had launched the assault in retaliation for an earlier clash, in which locals had killed two militants while fighting off a raid on their herd. Others told Reuters they believed the village had been targeted because militants suspected residents of having passed on information about the group's whereabouts to officials.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday he was "deeply shocked" by the massacre, and ordered the soldiers deployed to the region to pursue the attackers and bring back those they had kidnapped.
In a statement, Nigerian army spokesman Sagir Musa said militants were suspected to belong to the Islamic State's West Africa Province, an ISIS-affiliated offshoot of the jihadist group Boko Haram. He said a large contingent of soldiers had been deployed to the area to "track and apprehend or neutralize" the militants.
Heather Nicell, analyst at Janes Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, told VICE World News that the attack was the deadliest recorded by any of Boko Haram's factions since May 2018.
She said the attack on the village was unusual for the ISIS-affiliated offshoot, which had previously distinguished itself from its rival by primarily targeting security forces and military targets in Nigeria and Niger, rather than civilians, in a bid to build its legitimacy among local populations.
The latest massacre "reflects an unusual change in the group's targeting, as it typically does not target civilians cooperating with security forces," she said.
She said the lines between the various factions of Boko Haram had become increasingly blurred due to reported internal rifts within Boko Haram — known also as the Islamic State's West Africa Province (ISWAP) — and an unconfirmed leadership change in February.
Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates as "Western education is forbidden", has been waging a brutal insurgency in the region for more than a decade in its bid to create an Islamic state in the region. The conflict has led to the deaths of more than 37,500 people and displaced 2.5 million, according to the Council of Foreign Relations' Global Conflict Tracker.
The group is notorious for carrying out mass abductions during its raids, most notably in April 2014, when it kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok. More than 100 were kidnapped in another raid in the town of Dapchi in February 2018.