Boko Haram fighters are sometimes better equipped than Nigerian soldiers
Many people are feared dead after suspected Boko Haram Islamist gunmen attacked a town in north-east Nigeria.
Eyewitnesses told the BBC that half of Damboa had been burnt down, including the town’s main market.
At least 18 bodies so far have been recovered from the attack, which lasted for several hours. The death toll is expected to rise, residents say.
Boko Haram’s violent campaign to establish an Islamic state has killed thousands of people in recent years.
In April, it sparked international outrage by abducting more than 200 girls from their boarding school in Chibok, in Borno state, like Damboa.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden”, has often targeted schools since it launched its insurgency in 2009.
Borno state governor Kashim Shettima on Thursday said that 176 teachers had been killed and 900 schools destroyed since 2011.
Damboa, 85km (53 miles) from the state capital Maiduguri, is now said to be deserted as many people have fled to neighbouring towns.
“Those who could not flee surrendered and were killed by the insurgents,” a local official, who did not want to be named, told the AFP news agency.
Boko Haram attacked the barracks in the town two weeks ago, killing several soldiers.
Nigeria’s defence ministry said the military had repelled that attack and killed at least 50 insurgents.
But residents say that since then the town has only been defended by vigilante groups.
“We were defenceless because all the security personnel, including soldiers and policemen, have withdrawn,” resident Ahmed Buba told AFP.
On Tuesday, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan asked the National Assembly for an extra $1bn to help the military fight Boko Haram.
But the parliamentarians have now gone on a two-month recess without debating the request.
Nigeria’s soldiers have frequently complained that the insurgents have superior firepower.
Nigeria has a military budget of about $6bn a year but large sums are lost to corruption, critics say.
The US, UK, China, France and Israel have all sent military assistance to help rescue the schoolgirls.