At least 81 people have been killed in an attack on a herding village in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, according to security sources and residents.
Fighters drove into remote Felo village in Gubio district, about 80km (50 miles) from the regional capital of Maiduguri, on Tuesday afternoon, opening fire on residents.
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Niferia’s capital, Abuja, said those who tried to flee were run down.
“As people were running, (the attackers) followed them with their cars and motorcycles and drove over them, resulting in these deaths,” he said. “A lot of people are saying that several other people are missing in that community.”
A community leader who asked not to be named said the attack occurred as “men and children” watched over their cattle at a watering hole outside the village.
“Our people were caught off guard by the gunmen who surrounded them,” the leader said. “It is an open field with nowhere to hide,” he said. “They couldn’t escape, they couldn’t outrun the vehicles.”
Residents told reporters on Wednesday the attack was thought to be retaliation for the earlier killing of members of an armed group by a local self-defence unit formed to protect against attacks and the theft of herd animals in the village and surrounding area.
Nearly 1,200 cattle were stolen during the raid, according to Malam Bunu, the leader of the local defence group.
He told The Associated Press news agency the fighters returned on Wednesday morning to kill a herdsman who had escaped the massacre.
“(They) then set the entire village ablaze before they left,” Bunu said. “As I am talking to you now, the village is still smoking.”
State governor Babagana Zulum visited the community on Wednesday, saying that seven people, included the village head, had also been abducted in the violence. He called the attack “barbaric”.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bloodshed. Attacks by both Boko Haram, who have conducted a decade-long armed campaign in the country, and the splinter group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), are common in the area.
In a separate incident on Tuesday, some 200 attackers on motorcycles killed at least 20 people who tried to resist the looting of Kadisau village in the northwestern state of Katsina, according to police and residents.
The attack had also not been claimed by any group as of Wednesday.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the last year by criminal gangs carrying out robberies and kidnappings in the northwest Nigeria.
In May, the United Nations said the violence had forced about 23,000 refugees across the border to the north into Niger.