Hundreds of bodies remain strewn in the bush in Nigeria amid an ongoing attack described by Amnesty International as the "deadliest massacre" by Boko Haram.
Mike Omeri, the government spokesman, said fighting continued on Friday for Baga, a town on the border with Chad where Boko Haram fighters seized a key military base on January 3 and attacked again on Wednesday.
"Security forces have responded rapidly, and have deployed significant military assets and conducted air strikes against militant targets," Omeri said in a statement.
District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when fighters drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents.
|Failing to control Boko Haram
"The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous," Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for poorly armed civilians in a defence group that fights Boko Haram, told The Associated Press news agency.
He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies.
"No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now," Gava said.
An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.
A million displaced
If true, "this marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram's ongoing onslaught," said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.
Boko Haram violence has killed more than 10,000 people last year alone, according to the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.
More than a million people are displaced inside Nigeria and hundreds of thousands have fled across its borders into Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria.
Emergency workers said this week they are having a hard time coping with scores of children separated from their parents in the chaos of Boko Haram's increasingly frequent and deadly attacks.
Just seven children have been reunited with parents in Yola, capital of Adamawa state, where about 140 others have no idea if their families are alive or dead, said Sa'ad Bello, the coordinator of five refugee camps in Yola.