The badly decomposed bodies of hundreds of men, women and children have been discovered in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Damasak, in a massacre government officials suspect was carried out by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
The gruesome discovery comes weeks after military forces from Nigeria and Chad launched a successful operation to free the town from the clutches of extremist militants on 9 March. Troops found the bodies of least 70 at an apparent execution site under a bridge leading out of the town shortly after.
Babagana Mustapha, a local government spokesman for Damasak, told CNN a provincial government committee was visiting the area to assess the damage caused by Boko Haram’s insurgency when the bodies were discovered. The group overran the town in November.
"We found hundreds of dead bodies in shallow graves and on the streets of Damasak during our visit," he said.
Mr Mustapha said the badly decomposed bodies were buried in 20 clearly marked mass graves, adding that local residents involved in the exhumations estimated the number of dead at more than 400.
Kaumi Kusur, a local who helped bury bodies, told AFP the dead were found in houses, dumped on streets and in the Damasak River.
In March, Damasak residents claimed over 400 women and children were abducted by the group and taken by militants after its recapture from Boko Haram. This was denied by Borno State officials on 27 March, who said in a statement "there is no fresh abduction in Damasak".
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies