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Farmers flee neighborhood as gunmen kill 19 villagers, torch homes in northeast Nigeria

A farming village in northeast Nigeria buried 19 residents Monday who were killed by Islamic extremists in a night attack that left thatched homes burned and women and children wounded, a farmer and a security official said.

"They burned over 100 houses and left with 10 vehicles belonging to our people," the farmer in Alau village said on condition of anonymity for fear of his safety. "Several women and children were found seriously injured."

The attackers, armed with guns, came in vans and on motorcycles yelling "God is great," and looted the villages' food supplies, he said.

"Those of us who heard their arrival earlier were able to escape, but several of our colleagues who were already asleep couldn't make it before the attackers caught them and shot at them," said the villager.

His account was confirmed by a security official who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The village residents first buried 17 farmers, then found two more dead, said the resident of Alau, which sits south of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.

The attack came on the heels of similar attacks in Nigeria's border villages, where homes have been burned and civilians killed in attacks by members of the Boko Haram. Some 15 people were killed in attacks last week in the fishing village of Gashigar, forcing many residents to flee to neighboring Niger.

A security officer said that villages in remote and isolated places often fall victim to such attacks.

Farmers from other nearby villages also have begun to flee their homes in anticipation of possible attacks.

Thousands of people have been killed in a 4-year-old uprising by the Boko Haram terrorist network based in northeast Nigeria — many more Muslims than Christians. The uprising has continued despite an eight month state of emergency that has deployed thousands of troops to three states covering one-sixth of the country.

Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan announced a major shake-up of the high command of Nigeria's military. He fired all his service chiefs and appointed an air force officer from the troubled northeast as the top military commander.