Boko Haram militants have abducted 40 boys and young men in a remote community in Nigeria, it has emerged.
Scores of gunmen stormed Malari village in the northeast Borno state on New Year's Eve before rounding up males aged between ten and 23.
They were whisked away into one of the Islamists' major strongholds in the nearby Sambisa forest, according to terrified residents.
News of the mass kidnapping, which unfolded at about 8 pm, emerged only days later after villagers fled the isolated settlement for the state capital Maiduguri on Friday.
Malari village lies 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) from the Sambisa forest and close to the town of Gwoza, which the militants captured last June declaring it part of their caliphate.
'My two sons and three nephews were among those taken away by the Boko Haram gunmen and we believe they are going to use them as conscripts,' Muhammad said.
'When we heard of the kidnap of 40 boys in Malari by Boko Haram we decided to leave because we could be the next target,' said Alaramma Babagoni, who fled from the nearby village of Mulgwi.
Boko Haram has been abducting young men from villages in the area because we are close to their stronghold in Sambisa forest,' he said.
Witness Mohammed Zarami said the gunmen arrived at the village heavily armed but did not fire shots or kill anyone.
'People ran out of their houses in fear but they warned no one should disobey them,' Zarami told Reuters in Maiduguri, where he had fled to on foot.
'They took away over 40 (male) youths mostly between the ages of 15 to 23. As I am talking to you now, there is no youth in our village,' he said.
There was no immediate comment on the incident from the military in Maiduguri.
Residents of Malari and nearby villages fled, fearing further attacks and abductions.
Boko Haram has recently been seizing young men during raids on area villages to use as foot soldiers in its uprising aimed at establishing an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, residents said.
Suspected Boko Haram gunmen launched a deadly raid on Tuesday on Kautikari village near Chibok, torched several buildings and killed as many as 15 people, according to witnesses.
There was no toll available from an official source on the raid.
Boko Haram is still holding in captivity more than 200 schoolgirls it abducted from their school in Chibok in Borno state last April.
The abduction drew worldwide condemnation, after which President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to secure the area, including by deploying more troops.
But the promised troop numbers have failed to materialise, often leaving residents to rely entirely on vigilantes for protection.
The Islamists are believed to control large swathes of territory in Borno as well as several towns and villages in two other northeastern states, Adamawa and Yobe.
Boko Haram's five-year uprising in Nigeria has claimed more than 13,000 lives and has seen dozens of people, including women and children, kidnapped by the Islamists.