Kano, Nigeria (CNN)A bloody and terrifying raid by Boko Haram on Friday left at least 25 people dead in three villages in eastern Nigeria’s Adamawa state, according to residents and a local government official. Adamawa state borders Borno state, Boko Haram’s birth place and main stronghold.
Storming in on motorcycles, the gunmen attacked the neighboring villages of Kopa, Maikadire and Yaffa around 9 a.m. local time, shooting and killing residents, according to witnesses and local government chairman Maina Ularamu.
The gunmen are former residents who joined Boko Haram and left to live in Boko Haram camps, according to Ularamu and the village residents. After the Nigerian military launched a campaign of bombing raids and ground assaults on their camps, those Boko Haram militants sought to escape by returning to their villages.
Villagers tipped off military authorities and the returnees were arrested.
Friday’s attacks were retaliation against those villages, according to witnesses and the government chairman.
Founded 12 years ago by charismatic cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram calls for a pure Islamic state in Nigeria. Yusuf was killed by police in 2009 and many say his death made Boko Haram even more violent and defiant.
Abubakar Shekau took control of the group and ramped up the attacks. Murders and kidnappings of Westerners became a Boko Haram signature. Under Shekau the group also began a bombing campaign that targets churches, mosques and government buildings.
Boko Haram translates to “Western education is a sin” in the local Hausa language. The militant group says it wants stricter enforcement of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.
Boko Haram’s attacks have escalated in recent years in an apparent effort to destroy the Nigerian government.