Members of youth vigilante forces in northern Nigeria say the Boko Haram militant group has burned six villages and killed 37 people in a new attack near the insurgents' stronghold in Sambisa forest.
Government-aligned vigilantes told reporters Friday that the attacks took place late on Wednesday. The Nigerian newspaper The Nation reported that the villages, all in Borno state, were Koshifa, Matangle, Buraltuma, Darmanti, Almeri and Burmari.
Vigilante Ahmed Ajimi told the Associated Press news agency that the victims were farmers who had recently returned to their villages after Nigerian soldiers had cleared the areas occupied by Boko Haram earlier this year.
On Thursday, officials from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin met in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to discuss a proposed joint force to fight Boko Haram.
In opening remarks, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said his country should command the task force because it will provide the bulk of the troops, and the main battleground is on Nigerian soil.
He said a proposal to rotate the commander post between the countries every six months would make the task force less effective and efficient.
Buhari also promised Nigeria will follow through on a pledge of $100 million to give the force a smooth launch.
Leaders attending the meeting included the presidents of Chad, Niger and Benin, and the defense minister of Cameroon.
Chad, Niger and Cameroon deployed troops to fight Boko Haram earlier this year after the militants launched a series of cross-border attacks from bases in northeastern Nigeria.
The Nigerian government's failure to stop the insurgency was a major issue in the recent Nigerian presidential election, in which Buhari unseated Goodluck Jonathan.
Thousands of Nigerians have been killed in shooting and bomb attacks by Boko Haram since the group launched its insurgency in 2009. Rights group Amnesty International says Nigerian security forces have killed another 8,000 with a heavy-handed response.