21 July 2014
Last updated at 17:02
Boko Haram fighters are sometimes better equipped than Nigerian soldiers
Nigeria’s militant Islamists are in control of the key town of Damboa in north-eastern Nigeria, a local vigilante leader has told the BBC.
The vigilante force defending the town fled on Sunday, and Islamist group Boko Haram’s black flag is now flying over Damboa, he said.
At least 40 people were killed when Boko Haram first raided Damboa on Friday, the vigilante leader added.
The group has been fighting since 2009 to create an Islamic state in Nigeria.
In April, it sparked international outrage by abducting more than 200 girls from their boarding school in Chibok, in Borno state, like Damboa.
The BBC’s Chris Ewokor in the capital, Abuja, says when Boko Haram seized towns and villages in the past, it was driven out by the military.
However, government forces have failed to launch an offensive to recapture Damboa, he says.
Meanwhile, a military helicopter flying in the area crashed after developing a technical fault, the defence ministry says.
During the fighting in Damboa, some electric installations were damaged and this has left the regional capital, Maiduguri, without electricity for three weeks, a local resident has told the BBC.
Damboa is about 85km (53 miles) from Maiduguri, the headquarters of Boko Haram before it was driven out by government forces last year.
Who are Boko Haram?
- Founded in 2002
- Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
- Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
- Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
- Some three million people affected
- Declared terrorist group by US in 2013
The vigilante leader, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, told the BBC that Boko Haram gunmen had set up checkpoints on roads leading to Damboa and were charging motorists a toll fee.
His forces abandoned the town – a trading centre for people from neighbouring villages – after running out of ammunition.
Boko Haram’s flag had been hoisted outside the home of Damboa’s traditional ruler, and the town’s entrance, he said.
The group had also seized the military barracks, which government soldiers had abandoned after an earlier attack by the militants, the vigilante leader added.