Boko Haram attacks Nigerian village, nearly 300 people dead

Details emerged  on Wednesday of an apparent Boko Haram attack on a Nigerian village in which at least 150 people died, the latest in a series of attacks and abductions of schoolgirls attributed to the group.

Militants dressed in military uniforms, backed by armored personnel carriers and shouting ‘God is great’ attacked Gamboru Ngala on Monday afternoon, firing rocket-propelled grenades and tossing improvised bombs into a crowded outdoor marketplace, witnesses told an international news agency on Wednesday.

They then set fire to buildings where people had tried to take shelter from the violence, the witnesses said.

The fighters also attacked the police station during the 12-hour assault, initially facing stiff resistance. They eventually used explosives to blow the roof off the building, witnesses said. 

The final death toll could be closer to 300, Nigerian Sen. Ahmed Zanna told the agency.

It’s unclear what impact the attack could have on the international response to Nigeria’s fight with Boko Haram, which so far has been concentrated on helping the government rescue 276 schoolgirls abducted last month by the militant group.

Nigerian authorities have blamed the group for dozens of deadly attacks in the country’s north.

They offered a reward of about $310,000 Wednesday for information leading to the rescue of the girls.

‘While calling on the general public to be part of the solution to the present security challenge, the Police High Command also reassures all citizens that any information given would be treated anonymously and with utmost confidentiality,’ the Nigeria Police Force said in a statement.

The government also has accepted U.S. and British offers of assistance, officials with those governments said. International aid taking shape: U.S. officials will establish a ‘coordination cell’ to provide intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiation expertise, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The cell will include U.S. military personnel, she said.

The joint coordination cell will be established at the U.S. Embassy in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the work is expected to begin immediately.

The Pentagon has started planning for how it can help Nigeria, a senior U.S. military official told the news agency. U.S. military assistance will likely be limited to intelligence, mission planning and hostage negotiations, several officials told the news agency. It’s unlikely at this point that U.S. troops would be involved in operations, the officials said.

British officials will send a small team of experts to complement the U.S. team, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said on  Wednesday. The spokesman didn’t specify the nature of the team’s expertise.

Defending the response President Goodluck Jonathan has come under fire after waiting three weeks to publicly acknowledge the kidnappings. His administration, however, is defending its response -- even as details emerged Tuesday about a second mass kidnapping. ‘The President and the government (are) not taking this as easy as people all over the world think,’ said presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe.

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