The Boko Haram gunmen who swept into the township of Gulak brought with them a new message. Rather than sowing afresh the terror they have brought to swathes of north-east Nigeria by opening fire, the jihadists insisted they were here to stay and residents would not be harmed.

For Nigerians who have died in their thousands at the hands of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgents, such assurances were always going to be treated as hollow lies. Scores fled and today officials said the reality was that many in Gulak were killed in the weekend attack.

As Michael Kirshinga, a resident of the strategically important settlement, put it: “They assured us that they will not attack us, but people began to run for their lives. Some of us have fled for fear that, after subduing the soldiers, the insurgents will turn their gun barrels on us.”

The attack on Gulak may have ultimately conformed to Boko Haram’s grimly familiar modus operandi of spreading panic and spilling blood with murderous raids, bombings and beheadings.

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