By Vatican News staff writer
The Boko Haram attackers came out of the Sambisa forest enclave in trucks and motorcycles and began shooting indiscriminately in the predominantly Christian village of Pemi in the northeastern state of Borno.
At least 11 people were killed in the attack, local sources told AFP.
Two Christmas attacks
They burned a church, ransacked food supplies meant for distribution on Christmas Day, looted medicines and set fire to the local hospital.
The death toll could rise as villagers fled into the bush during the attack and some people are still unaccounted for. Unconfirmed reports said a priest was also kidnapped.
In a separate assault on Thursday, gunmen attacked another Christian community in Garkida, in neighbouring Adamawa state, looting drug stores and food supplies before torching homes, residents told AFP.
There were no reports of casualties from that attack. Security agencies had in recent days warned of an increased risk of attack during the Christian holiday, following a pattern on previous occasions.
Boko Haram terrorism
The Boko Haram has carried out a number of attacks in northern Nigeria where they are fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. The decade-long conflict in Nigeria's northeast has killed 36,000 people and displaced around two million from their homes, according to the United Nations.
Pemi is located only 20 kilometres from Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls six years ago.
Last year, too, Boko Haram released a video purportedly showing the murder of 11 Christians in Nigeria’s Borno State on Christmas Day.
On 28 November, Boko Haram killed about 110 farmers in Koshebe, Borno. On 11 December, more than 330 students were abducted from a government-run boarding school in the northwestern state of Katsina, an attack claimed by the terrorist group. Many of them were rescued a week later after a gun battle with the abductors.
In many parts of Nigeria, communities have resorted to self-defence and formed armed vigilantes or militias, who work alongside the army.
Violence has spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting regional countries to form a military coalition to fight the jihadist groups.
In a statement on Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari "reiterated the promise of his administration to remain unyielding in confronting the Boko Haram insurgency as well as other forms of criminality."
"For me, providing security for all residents in the country remains an article of faith," Buhari said in a written Christmas message.
The Pope's appeal
In his “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas message on Friday, Pope Francis prayed for international support for peace in various strife-torn regions of the world, including in Nigeria.
During his General Audience on 2 December, following a 28 November massacre of farmers in northeast Nigeria, he prayed for the victims and their families and for the conversion of the killers.