Boko Haram systematically killing men in Nigeria

Abuja - The Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram is systematically killing men to assert its control and has seized yet another area in northern Nigeria, local media reported on Thursday.

Fleeing civilian residents said the Islamist sect began house-to-house sweeps in and around Bama, a Borno State town where Boko Haram fighters were clashing with soldiers.

Boko Haram captured and killed men suspected of being members of a civilian vigilante group that had resisted its advance, they said.

"Everyone is a [Boko Haram] target as long as you are a male", said Senator Ahmed Zannah, who represents the central part of Borno State in the National Assembly.

More than 180 people have been killed and about 26 000 people forced to flee the Bama area in the past week, local newspaper Punch reported.

The National Emergency Management Agency registered 26 391 refugees from Bama.

Key town

Witnesses said Boko Haram was now in control of Bama, but the military has denied the reports.

The insurgents, meanwhile, captured several towns in the Gulani area of neighbouring Yobe State, according to The Nation newspaper.

Heavily armed Boko Haram fighters seized the council secretariat and the local government lodge in Bara, the area's key town, witnesses said.

"The whole of my local government has been taken over", State House of Assembly representative Abdullahi Kukuwa was quoted as saying.

The insurgents were gathering large crowds to preach Islamic shariah law, Kukuwa said.

In August, Boko Haram declared a caliphate in the town of Gwoza, roughly 50km south of Bama.

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sinful", has killed more than 3 000 people in the north of the country this year alone.

When it first launched attacks in 2009, Boko Haram mainly targeted Christians under the pretext of wanting to establish an Islamic state.

But since mid-2013, the group has focused its attacks on government security agents as well as on civilians of both Christian and Muslim faiths in their homes, markets, hospitals and schools.