"Residents of Kekenu, Budur, Yoyo and Mile 90 villages, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the fishing town of Baga in Borno State, fled after a visit from the Islamists on Monday [January 19]," Agence France Presse reported, citing locals.
"These four villages are all empty as at yesterday (Monday) because Boko Haram gunmen went there and asked people to leave or else," said Abubakar Gamandi, a Borno resident, as cited by the media outlet.
The media outlet notes that Boko Haram insurgents attacked Baga on January 3, setting fire to houses and looting local businesses in at least 16 nearby settlements located on the shores of Lake Chad. Hundreds of civilians could have been killed during the raids, conducted by the militants.
The militants declare that their ultimate goal is to create an Islamic state in the region and restore northern Nigeria's Muslim empire, Reuters notes, adding that the group's campaign has already become "one of the deadliest in the world." According to some estimates, the group killed around 10,000 people last year, and kidnapped hundreds of women and children.
Security experts claim that after maintaining control over the Baga region, Boko Haram has gained strong strategic positions and is most likely to advance southwards and carry out cross-border assaults.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has called upon Central African nations to fight Boko Haram "more aggressively" in its official statement released on Monday, January 19, Time Magazine notes.
The Islamist group was formed in 2002 and increased its terror activity in 2009. Controlling vast territories of about 20,000 square miles, Boko Haram poses a substantial threat to Nigeria and neighboring states.