Several female suicide bombers have blown themselves up amid panicked villagers fleeing a Boko Haram attack in northeast Nigeria killing scores, according to the the army and witnesses.

The latest carnage in a series of attacks that have claimed more than 200 lives in just three days happened on Friday night in Zabarmari village, 10km from the city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of the armed group.

Local resident Haladu Musa, who fled the attack, told AFP that "large numbers" of fighters poured into the village, overpowering government forces deployed to prevent the fighters reaching Maiduguri.

"The soldiers were forced to retreat," he said.

Then, as people began to flee, female suicide bombers started blowing themselves up in their midst, killing large numbers of people, he said.

"Most of the casualties came from the suicide bombings," he said, without being able to give a precise figure for the dead and injured.

"A total of six suicide bombers detonated themselves ... killing scores of people while some people were also wounded. A soldier also died," the Nigerian army said in a statement without specifying the sex of the bombers.

Search ongoing

The army said a vehicle full of improvised explosive devices was recovered by troops, adding there was an ongoing search "for any bombs that might have been hidden or left unexploded in the area."

Musa said the fighters looted shops and torched "almost half the village" before eventually being repulsed after the military sent in reinforcements.

Danlami Ajaokuta, a civilian vigilante helping the military battle Boko Haram, who also witnessed the attack, spoke of heavy casualties.

"The main concern now is to evacuate and attend to the injured and later recover the dead bodies now lying in the village," he said, adding that more than 100 injured had been taken to hospital.

Boko Haram, which is fighting to establish a state in northeast Nigeria and has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, has intensified its campaign of violence since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power on May 29.

The Zabarmari attack followed a series of attacks across restive Borno State since Wednesday.

This week, Boko Haram fighters gunned down worshippers at evening Ramadan prayers, shot women in their homes and dragged men and boys from their beds to kill them in the dead of night.

A young female suicide bomber also killed 12 worshippers when she blew herself up in a mosque.

Source: AFP