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Suspected Boko Haram Gunmen Kill Dozens in Nigerian Town

Suspected Boko Haram extremists have attacked a town in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 39 people and burning down hundreds of homes.

VOA's Hausa Service reports that dozens of gunmen disguised as Nigerian soldiers attacked the town of Konduga in Borno state late Tuesday, in a region where President Goodluck Jonathan's troops are struggling to contain its insurgency.

Witnesses say the attackers set fire to houses and shot people as they tried to flee.

The insurgents also took hostage 20 young women from a local college, a teacher said. The military confirmed the attack took place. It was still assessing the number of casualties.

Borno State governor Kashim Shettima, who visited Konduga on Wednesday, told reporters that up to 70 percent of the town was destroyed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell upon Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

“It is barbaric and unfortunate,” Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima said when he visited the town on Wednesday.

“About 60 to 70 percent of the town has been burnt down but we are willing to rebuild it,” he added, pledging to spend 100 million naira [$609,000] on emergency materials.

The group has carried out similar large-scale attacks in northern Nigeria in the past, and is blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009. Efforts by the Nigerian military to stamp out the group have not stopped the violence.

Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law on a country split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims, and is considered the biggest security risk in Africa's top oil exporter and second largest economy after South Africa.

Some information for this story was provided by Reuters.