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Latest Boko Haram massacres mark sad new low for group

ABUJA, Nigeria - A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children among people burned to death in the latest attack by Nigeria's homegrown Islamic extremists.

Scores of charred corpses and bodies with bullet wounds littered the streets from Saturday night's attack on Dalori village just 3 miles from Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram and the biggest city in the northeast, according to survivors and soldiers.

The shooting and burning continued for four hours, survivor Alamin Bakura said, weeping on a telephone call to The Associated Press. He said several of his family members were killed or wounded.

The violence continued as three female suicide bombers blew up among people who managed to flee to neighboring Gamori village, killing many people, according to a soldier at the scene who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to journalists.

It was not known how many scores of people were killed because bodies still were being collected, including from the surrounding bushes where the insurgents hunted down fleeing villagers, according to Abba Shehu, a security guard helping collect corpses.

Boko Haram has taken to attacking soft targets, increasingly with suicide bombers, since the military last year drove them out of towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria.

The new focus on more vulnerable targets picked up steam after President Muhammadu Buhari's declaration that Boko Haram has been "technically" defeated, capable of no more than suicide bombings on soft targets.

The 6-year Islamic uprising has killed about 20,000 people and driven 2.5 million from their homes. The Nigerian militants are now the world's deadliest extremist group, edging out the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to which it is affiliated.