Boko Haram has killed up to 2,000 people in the northeast Nigerian town of Baga in the past two days, their second killing spree since seizing control there over the weekend.
Locals said the insurgents began shooting indiscriminately and burning buildings on Tuesday evening in several raids targeting the civilian population that carried on into Wednesday.
Dead bodies were left in the streets following the bloody assault by militant Islamists, eye witnesses said.
Soldiers protecting the town, which has a population of 10,000 fled on Saturday after militants attacked the town's military base.
Nigeria's government today said troops had begun a fightback against Boko Haram.
The militants first attacked Baga, in the north of remote Borno state, on Saturday and on Wednesday set fire to the town and razed at least 16 towns and villages nearby.
Mike Omeri, who speaks on national security, said security forces had been 'actively pursuing the militants' since the first attack and after the second.
'Security forces have responded rapidly and have deployed significant military assets and conducted airstrikes against militant targets,' Omeri told reporters in Abuja.
Boko Haram has been waging a five-year insurgency to carve out an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria.
Local officials in and around Baga told AFP on Wednesday that at least 20,000 people were forced to flee their homes and that 560 had been stranded on an island on Lake Chad since Saturday.
Omeri said the country's emergency management agency was helping 2,000 people displaced from Baga, while other agencies, including the Red Cross, were ready to assist when security allows.
Boko Haram has for the last six months captured dozens of towns and villages in northeast Nigeria as part of its aim to establish a hardline Islamic state.
The Baga attack effectively gave it control of all three frontiers of Borno state with neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, increasing fears of cross-border attacks.
Security analysts this week said that the militants were now in a better position to strike south towards the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, where the group was founded in 2002.
It has also cast doubt on the ability to hold general elections in the affected areas, scheduled for next month.
Musa Alhaji Bukar, a senior government official, told the BBC that fleeing residents told him that Baga was now 'virtually non-existent', adding those who fled reported that they had been unable to bury the dead, and corpses littered the town's streets.
Nigeria's government maintains it is on top of the situation, despite repeated claims of a lack of military presence in the region and complaints from soldiers about inadequate weapons and kit.
Omeri condemned the latest attacks as 'brutal and barbaric' and said they represented 'none of the people of Nigeria and no religion'.
Culled From DailyMailOnline