Fighting between Nigeria's military and Islamic extremists killed at least 185 people in a fishing community in the nation's northeast during an attack that saw insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers spray machine-gun fire into neighborhoods filled with civilians. The fighting in Baga began Friday and lasted for hours, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad. Yesterday, when government officials finally felt safe enough to see the destruction, homes, businesses, and vehicles had been burned throughout the area.
The assault marks a significant escalation in the long-running insurgency Nigeria faces in its predominantly Muslim north, with Boko Haram extremists mounting a coordinated assault on soldiers using military-grade weaponry. The killings also mark one of the deadliest incidents ever involving Boko Haram. Officials could not offer a breakdown of civilian casualties versus those of soldiers and extremist fighters. Many of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition in fires that razed whole sections of the town, said residents, who accused soldiers of deliberately setting fires during the attack. (Read more Nigeria stories.)