MAIDUGURI, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Gunmen abducted 40 boys and young men from a remote village in northeast Nigeria in a raid that residents and a security source blamed on Boko Haram, the Islamist group that has gained worldwide notoriety for mass kidnappings.
Witness Mohammed Zarami said the gunmen arrived at the village of Malari around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, 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 the northeast city of 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.
Boko Haram fighters have abducted hundreds of people in the past year. Boys are recruited as fighters and the girls as sex slaves, security officials say.
Its five-year-old uprising for an Islamic state is the gravest security threat to Africa's top economy.
Parents of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist rebels in April have said they are appealing to the United Nations for help after losing hope that the Nigerian government would rescue them.
A man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau at the end of October said in a video that the girls had been "married off" to Boko Haram commanders. (Reporting by Lanre Ola; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)