Dozens of displaced people are feared to have been abducted by Boko Haram jihadists in north-eastern Nigeria.

The victims were mostly women who lived in a camp in Gamboru Ngala town after fleeing their homes because of attacks by the insurgents, locals said.

The abductions occurred when the group went to collect firewood for cooking or selling, they added.

Reports of the number of people abducted vary wildly, from nearly 50 to more than 300.

The largest mass abduction by Boko Haram occurred when more than 270 schoolgirls were seized from their dormitory in Chibok town, also in north-eastern Borno state, in 2014.

The latest abductions took place several days ago, but details are only emerging now because Gamboru Ngala is in a remote area where the jihadists have destroyed telecommunication infrastructure.

Borno state authorities told the BBC that a response team had been deployed to the area where the abductions happened but did not give any further details. The road leading to the town has been closed.

The kidnappings come at a time when Borno’s state government has said that 95% of Boko Haram fighters are either dead or have surrendered.

Neither it nor the federal government has commented on the latest abductions, but the chairman of the local government in the area, Umar Mohammed, confirmed the kidnappings, without giving a number.

One Gamboru Ngala resident told the BBC that 113 people had been taken away by Boko Haram fighters.

“It was on Sunday that we got information that over 200 displaced people went to get firewood but unfortunately Boko Haram kidnapped them, allowing only the very young and very old to return,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

An anti-jihadist militia leader in the area, Shehu Mada, blamed the abductions on an offshoot of Boko Haram known as the Islamic State of West Africa Province (Iswap), AFP news agency reports.

He said a headcount showed that 47 women had been captured, while others managed to escape.

The insurgency in northern Nigeria has been raging since 2009, killing more than 40,000 people and forcing two million to flee their homes.

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