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Militants belonging to the Islamic rebel group Boko Haram stormed three villages in northeastern Nigeria on Monday, killing at least 200 civilians and terrorizing residents.

Witnesses say the military failed to intervene, although they were warned that an attack was imminent.

From the Associated Press:

A community leader who witnessed the killings on Monday said residents of the Gwoza local government district in Borno state had pleaded for the military to send soldiers to protect the area after they heard that militants were about to attack, but help didn’t arrive. The killings occurred in Danjara, Agapalwa, and Antagara.

“We all thought they were the soldiers that we earlier reported to that the insurgents might attack us,” said a community leader who escaped the massacre and fled to Maiduguri, Borno state capital.

The militants, dressed as soldiers, arrived in Toyota Hilux pickup trucks and told civilians they were there to protect them. It’s the same tactic the rebels used in April when they kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok.

After people gathered in the center on the orders of the militants, “they begin to shout ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar’ on top of their voices, then they begin to fire at the people continuously for a very long time until all that gathered were all dead,” said the witness who didn’t want to be named for fear for his safety.

The slaughter was confirmed by Mohammed Ali Ndume, a senator representing Borno, whose hometown is Gwoza. It took a few days for news of the massacres to become public, as travel on the roads is extremely dangerous and phone connections are poor or nonexistent.

The villages attacked on Monday are in the Gwoza local government, a regional political center whose emir was killed in a Boko Haram ambush on his convoy last week. Emirs are religious and traditional rulers who have been targeted for speaking out against Boko Haram’s extremism.

Borno Gov. Kashim Shettima traveled on Saturday to Gwoza to pay his respects to the fallen emir and was quoted as saying it was a terrifying ride.

“If I say I was not petrified travelling through that … road to Gwoza I would be lying because that road had been designated a no-go area for about two months now due to the incessant attacks and killings that occur there,” the governor was quoted as saying by Information Nigeria, a web site. A local journalist who was in the convoy that was escorted by 150 soldiers counted at least 16 towns and villages that were deserted along the 135 kilometer (85 mile) route, according to the local media report.

We’ll keep you updated with the latest from Nigeria as news comes in.

SOURCE: AP | PHOTO CREDIT: Screengrab

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