KANO - Suspected Boko Haram gunmen shot dead at least 42 people in two separate attacks in northeast Nigeria, with no let-up in sight to the Islamist group’s targeting of civilians.

The attacks in the remote villages of Debiro Hawul and Debiro Biu in Borno state on Monday and Tuesday came before at least 10 people were killed in a suicide attack in neighbouring Yobe. Boko Haram , which has been fighting to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria since 2009, has intensified its campaign of violence in the last month.

In all, nearly 250 people have been killed in Nigeria since Muhammadu Buhari became president on May 29 vowing to crush the militant uprising that has claimed at least 15,000 lives. The latest attacks saw some 30 militant fighters storm Debiro Biu on Monday and Debiro Hawul the following day.

, with reports taking time to emerge because of the villages’ remote location. “We received reports of attacks by suspected Boko Haram gunmen on the two villages, in which 42 deaths were recorded,” one police officer told AFP from the town of Biu.

Umaru Markus, who fled Debiro Hawul, said the attacks were carried out by some 30 Islamists in a convoy of pick-up trucks and motorcycles. The rebels shot dead their victims after looting homes and shops and setting fire to buildings, he added. “They came around 12:30 am (1130 GMT on Tuesday) and opened fire on the village, which sent people scampering into the bush to escape the attack,” he said. “The gunmen slaughtered 22 people who were not fast enough in fleeing and went about looting homes, grains silos and drug stores.” The attack on Debiro Biu left 20 people dead, he said. “It never occurred to us we would be the next target,” he added.

Moreover, a girl thought to be aged just 12 detonated explosives she was carrying at a market in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday, killing 10 people and injuring dozens, a relative of one of the injured told AFP.

The blast bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram Islamists, who have used young women and girls in the past as human bombs and regularly attacked “soft” civilian targets such as markets. The explosion happened at around 11:00 am (1000 GMT) at the weekly market in Wagir, in the Gujba district south of the Yobe state capital Damaturu. “It was a suicide attack by a girl of around 12 years,” said Hussaini Aisami, whose relative was among at least 30 people injured. “She went into the market and headed straight to the grain section. She detonated her explosives in the middle of traders and customers. “Ten people died from the explosion. We brought 30 people to the hospital.”

Both attacks again indicated the threat posed by Boko Haram , who have been pushed out of captured towns and villages by a four-nation military offensive since February.

But deadly raids, shelling, explosions and suicide attacks on “soft” targets such as markets and mosques have continued. On Tuesday, 10 people were killed when explosives carried by a girl thought to be aged just 12 detonated at the weekly market in the village of Wagir, south of the Yobe state capital, Damaturu.

Thirty others were injured in the attack, which bore all the hallmarks of the Islamists, who have used women and young girls as human bombs since the middle of last year. Security analysts studying the phenomenon have suggested that younger girls may have their explosives detonated remotely by a third party. Ending the insurgency is a priority for Buhari and his administration. The new president has already visited Chad and Niger to secure sustained regional support for the fight-back.

On Tuesday, his office said he had accepted an invitation to go to Cameroon, whose far north region has been increasingly hit by the violence. A new regional fighting force comprising 8,700 troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin is due to deploy at the end of next month. But there will be pressure to counter Boko Haram’s urban guerrilla tactics to which it has reverted after it captured swathes of territory last year.

Moreover, a girl thought to be aged just 12 detonated explosives she was carrying at a market in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday, killing 10 people and injuring dozens, a relative of one of the injured told AFP.

The blast bore all the hallmarks of Boko Haram Islamists, who have used young women and girls in the past as human bombs and regularly attacked “soft” civilian targets such as markets. The explosion happened at around 11:00 am (1000 GMT) at the weekly market in Wagir, in the Gujba district south of the Yobe state capital Damaturu. “It was a suicide attack by a girl of around 12 years,” said Hussaini Aisami, whose relative was among at least 30 people injured. “She went into the market and headed straight to the grain section. She detonated her explosives in the middle of traders and customers. “Ten people died from the explosion. We brought 30 people to the hospital.”

On Monday, a girl thought to be aged about 17 killed at least 20 at a bus station near a fish market in the state capital of Borno, Maiduguri, when the explosives she was carrying went off. A girl about the same age was also killed in an explosion nearby but there were no other casualties. Security analysts have suggested that younger girls may have their explosives detonated remotely by a third party.

The injured from Wagir were taken to the Sani Abachi Specialist Hospital in Damaturu for treatment but others with less serious injuries were released. A nurse at the hospital, who asked not to be named, confirmed the relative’s account after speaking to other relatives. “We received 30 people with various grievous injuries from Wagir this afternoon,” he said. “We have not received any dead bodies. Residents from the village said the dead were taken out for burial from the scene after the blast at the market.”

The latest deaths are another reminder of the threat posed by Boko Haram , despite the group being pushed out of captured territory by a four-nation military offensive since February. Suicide attacks, raids and shelling have increased since new President Muhammadu Buhari took power on May 29 vowing to crush the militants. In all, some 208 people have been killed since then, according to AFP reporting.