Maiduguri: Boko Haram has taken over another town in Nigeria`s far northeast, a lawmaker, a local government official and a security source said on Tuesday, after militant fighters attacked on market day.
Maina Ma`aji Lawan, who represents northern Borno state in Nigeria`s Senate, said the Islamists were in control of Damasak, on the border with neighbouring Niger.
Nigerian soldiers and hundreds of residents fled across the frontier to seek sanctuary when the heavily armed militants opened fire on traders on Monday morning, he added.
"There is not a single male in Damasak. Boko Haram is in control because all males and soldiers have fled. No one expects women to fight them," Lawan told AFP by telephone from Abuja.
A local government official in Damasak said on Monday that the gunmen concealed their weapons in containers that they brought to the market.
They pretended to be traders but instead sprayed bullets through the market, said Mohammed Damasak.
"Sadly, the report we have is that the Boko Haram terrorists have established their authority in Damasak. They have captured the town," said a senior security source in Maiduguri.
Usman Kalil, a senior local government official, said Boko Haram, which has seized more than two dozen towns in Borno and neighbouring Yobe and Adamawa states, had hoisted their flag.
"They have killed our people at will but I don`t know how many people," he said.
"They also destroyed many buildings, including the market, a hospital and the secretariat. Many people, especially women and children, are under the custody of the terrorists."
Boko Haram`s territorial gains are a change in strategy from its previous trademark of deadly hit-and-run strikes or high-profile strikes against government, police or military targets.
The group wants to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria and its seizure of towns has raised fears about a potential loss of government control in the region.
Lawan said he feared that Damasak may suffer the same fate as Malam Fatori, a nearby fishing hub which was overrun earlier this month.
"When Boko Haram seized Malam Fatori recently, the military kept giving us assurances that they were going to deploy and take it back," the senator added.
"But the town is still in the hands of the insurgents and not a single soldier has been deployed to fight them. Our concern is Damasak may not be any different."