Boko Haram fighters have killed at least 15 people near Nigeria's northeastern city of Maiduguri, where the country's President Goodluck Jonathan is due to launch his re-election campaign.

"The terrorists attacked Kambari village which is less than five kilometres to Maiduguri around 5:00 am. They killed 15 people and set the entire hamlet ablaze," said a security source who requested anonymity.

Kyallu, a woman from the village, confirmed the number of dead to the AFP news agency. She said she fled Kambari with her grandchildren after the attackers killed four of her children. 

"The insurgents also killed our village head. In fact, I counted 15 dead bodies," Kyallu, who is now in Maiduguri, said.

Maiduguri itself has seen repeated attacks by Boko Haram since 2009. The armed group is believed to have killed thousands of people since then in an effort to establish its own state.

The latest attack came as Jonathan was due to launch his re-election campaign for the February 14 polls at a rally in Maiduguri.

Security was stepped up ahead of the event with hundreds of armed police and sniffer dogs deployed at strategic areas.

Jonathan, a southern Christian, faces a tough challenge from former military ruler Mohammadu Buhari, a Muslim.

The president visited Maiduguri on January 15, his first stop there since March 2013. The trip was shrouded in secrecy.

A previous visit to the restive region in May last year was cancelled at the last minute. Jonathan

had planned to visit the remote Borno town of Chibok after Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their school.

Boko Haram was founded in Maiduguri in 2002 and remained largely peaceful until a police and military crackdown against its then-leader Mohammed Yusuf and his followers in 2009.

Source: AFP