Jihadists in northeast Nigeria have killed 27 people in four separate attacks since Friday, security sources and residents told AFP on Sunday.
The Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), which split from rival Boko Haram jihadists in 2016, has escalated attacks in recent weeks, despite ongoing military operations.
Late on Saturday, ISWAP killed 24 civilians in three villages in Borno state, an anti-jihadist militia leader and a resident told AFP.
They said the civilians were targeted by aiding troops fighting the militants.
Military spokesmen and local officials have not yet confirmed the attacks and have not responded to AFP’s requests for comment.
The villages are located on the edge of the Sambisa forest, an important shelter for jihadists.
Fighters entered the villages of Sabongarin Kimba, Mandara-Girau and Ngama in Biu district targeting residents, the sources said.
“The terrorists killed 24 people in the three villages last night,” said an anti-jihadist militia leader Mustapha Karimbe.
“They moved from village to village, selecting their targets and slaughtering them,” Karimbe said, adding that nine residents were killed in Sabongarin Kimba, seven in Mandara-Girau and eight in Ngama.
He said soldiers had enlisted the help of villagers to clear bushes along the highway connecting the villages, which the militants use as cover for ambushes.
The attacks were “punishment for the residents’ helping soldiers,” he added.
The jihadists had warned villagers not to clear the foliage and threatened “serious consequences,” said another militia member, Umar Ari, who counted the same death toll.
Ahmad Babagana, a resident of the nearby town of Biu, said the militants stormed Sabongarin Kimba around 2000 GMT before moving on to Ngama and Mandara-Girau.
“It was clear they knew the residents they were looking for,” said Babagana, who gave the same death toll.
Late Friday, ISWAP launched another attack in Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in 2014, sparking international outrage.
Fighters in trucks and motorcycles stormed the Christian village of Kautikeri in Chibok district, killing three residents and destroying a church, two residents said.
“They arrived at around 5:45 PM (1645 GMT) and attacked the village with guns, killing three people and setting a church on fire,” Kautikeri resident Samson Bulus told AFP.
Another resident, Samson Silas, gave the same story.
It was the second jihadist attack on the village in a month.
On January 20, ISWAP killed two residents and kidnapped 20 children, according to two residents and a community leader.
In the northeast alone, the military has killed 180 fighters and arrested 130 others suspected of terrorism since late January.
The 12-year conflict has killed at least 40,000 people fighting alone and displaced more than two million from their homes.