FILES) -- A screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram and obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (C). Boko Haram gunmen killed 48 fish vendors in Nigeria's restive Borno State, near the border with Chad, the head of the fish traders association told AFP on November 25, 2014. "Scores of Boko Haram fighters blocked a route linking Nigeria with Chad near the fishing village of Doron Baga on the shores of Lake Chad on Thursday and killed a group of 48 fish traders on their way to Chad to buy fish, " Abubakar Gamandi said. AFP PHOTO / BOKO HARAM
Boko Haram attack in Nigeria
03:53 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria regularly since 2009

The Islamist group aims to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law

CNN  — 

Hundreds of Islamist militants have seized a multinational military base in northeastern Nigeria, according to a government official.

“Boko Haram overwhelmed the Multinational Joint Task Force and dislodged them from their base outside Baga after hours-long fighting,” said Maina Ma’aji Lawan, a Nigerian senator ‎from the state of Borno, where Baga is located.

“They came in huge numbers heavily armed and subdued the multinational troops consisting (of) soldiers from Nigeria, Niger and Chad,” Lawan said.

Villagers: Boko Haram abduct 40 boys, young men

The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was formed in 1998 to combat light arms proliferation and human trafficking. More recently, it has been involved in the fight against Boko Haram.

It was not immediately clear how many troops were at the base at the time of the attack, which happened Saturday.

Baga resident Yusuf Maidaji fled to the Chadian village of Kangallam.

He said the militants in Baga torched hundreds of homes and looted shops. He also said people were killed, but that it was difficult to know how many.

“The toll could be huge because the gunmen opened indiscriminate fire on fleeing residents,” said Maidaji.

Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria regularly since 2009, attacking police, schools, churches and civilians, and bombing government buildings.

The Islamist group – considered one of the world’s most deadly terrorist organizations – has said its aim is to impose a stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.