Suspected Boko Haram fighters have killed 48 villagers in northeastern Nigeria near the town where the group kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls.
The three villages attacked overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday are near the town of Chibok, where the girls were abducted from their boarding school in a brazen April 15 assault that has ignited a global movement to secure their freedom.
The attacks came hours after twin car bombs exploded at a crowded bus terminal and market in Nigeria's central city of Jos, killing at least 122 people.
Gunmen stormed the village of Alagarno late on Tuesday and stole food, razed homes and fired on fleeing civilians.
"It was a sudden attack," said Alagarno resident Haruna Bitrus, in an account supported by other locals. "They began shooting and set fire to our homes. We had to flee to the bush," he added.
Many of those who fled Alagarno ran to Chibok, where the armed group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls on April 14.
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The nearby villages of Bulakurbe and Shawa were also attacked.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either assault, but Boko Haram has either claimed or been blamed for scores of similar attacks in that part of Borno state, near the hilly border with Cameroon.
President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the US had deployed 80 military personnel to neighbouring Chad to help in the search for the girls.
He said the service members will help with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria. He said the force would stay in Chad until its support is no longer necessary.
Meanwhile in Jos, rescue workers with body bags combed the rubble for more bodies as scores of residents gathered at mortuaries and hospitals in the search for missing loved ones.
Most victims were women and children who worked in the market as vendors, said Mohammed Abdulsalam of the National Emergency Management Agency.
"We expect to find more bodies in the rubble," he said.
Officials said that the bombs were concealed in a truck and a minibus. The second blast killed some of the rescue workers who rushed to the scene, which was obscured by billows of black smoke.
The Nigerian government has been heavily criticised for failing to find the hundreds of girls who were taken from their school.
Boko Haram has stepped up its use of explosives in attacks that are spreading far beyond its core area of operation, including two in Abuja last month.
Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the schoolgirls’ abduction in Chibok, has been trying to overthrow the government of Nigeria and establish an Islamic state. Thousands have been killed in the armed group’s five-year uprising.