Kano: Hundreds of people from four villages near the Nigerian town of Baga have been forced to flee their homes after a warning from Boko Haram militants, witnesses and community leaders said Tuesday.
Residents of Kekenu, Budur, Yoyo and Mile 90 villages, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the fishing town of Baga in Borno State, fled after a visit from the Islamists on Monday.
"These four villages are all empty as at yesterday (Monday) because Boko Haram gunmen went there and asked people to leave or else," said Abubakar Gamandi, head of the Borno fishermen`s union.
Rebel fighters attacked Baga on January 3, looting and burning down homes and businesses in the town and at least 16 surrounding settlements on the shores of Lake chad.
Hundreds of people, if not more, are feared to have been killed, although there is no official confirmation of the toll as Boko Haram was still in control of the area.
Gamandi, who hails from Baga and now stays in the Borno State capital Maiduguri, said he received the information from villagers who fled to the city.
One women who fled Baga to Maiduguri on Monday confirmed that she joined the crowds fleeing the four villages.
"When we came to Mile 90, we found it almost empty with some remaining residents staying behind to pick up personal belongings," said Ma`agana Butari.
"We also met Budur, Kekenu and Yoyo deserted and we caught up with some of the residents moving towards Monguno," the 32-year-old mother of five said by telephone from Maiduguri.
Security analysts have said that with the takeover of Baga, Boko Haram is better placed to advance southwards towards Maiduguri for a possible attack.
The group was founded there in 2002 but was driven from the city in 2013 after the declaration of a state of emergency in Borno and two neighbouring states.
The flight from the villages indicated that the group was now heading towards Monguno, 65 kilometres from Baga, where thousands of people have taken refuge.