BURATAI, Nigeria, March 28 (UPI) -- Suspected Boko Haram militants decapitated 23 people from a village in Nigeria's northeastern Borno State Saturday, according to residents and officials.
The attack came at 11 p.m. Friday in the village of Buratai as gunmen set fire to homes while residents slept within. The militants then targeted those trying to escape.
"The gunmen slaughtered their 23 victims like rams and decapitated them. They injured several people," Ibrahim Adamu, a local politician who fled, told CNN. "They burned a large part of the village and we are afraid some residents were burnt in the homes because most people had gone to bed when the gunmen struck."
A paramedic at a nearby hospital told CNN 32 people from the village sought treatment for burns and gunshot wounds.
In September 2014 Nigerian soldiers protecting a general who lived in Buratai reportedly killed at least 20 Boko Haram militants attacking the village.
It is not clear whether the violence is related to Saturday's national elections, which saw millions of Nigerians line up to vote. Multiple attacks at polling stations by unknown perpetrators resulted in at least 24 deaths, according to reports, and paired with technical glitches with biometric cards, prompted the extension of voting into Sunday in parts of the country.
The elections, which pit incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Mohammadu Buhari, had previously been delayed from their original date in mid-February due to the ongoing threat of Boko Haram attacks.
In January the African Union agreed to send 7,500 international troops to combat the group, later raising the figure to 8,000.
Earlier this month military forces from Chad and Niger went on the offensive against Boko Haram fighters in Nigeria's northeast.
In early March a video posted to Boko Haram's Twitter account depicted the beheading of two accused spies, leading experts to speculate the group might be working with the Islamic State, which is notorious for publicizing gruesome executions.
On March 7 Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, pledged allegiance to IS in a video posted online -- echoing similar oaths from extremists in the Philippines, Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Chechen Russia.
Nearly a week later, IS released an audio message in which spokesman Abu Mohammed al Adnani accepted Shekau's pledge and announced the "good news of the expansion of the caliphate to West Africa."