More than 15,000 people have fled the town of Damboa, a trading center in northeast Nigeria, after a series of attacks by Boko Haram. More than 40 people were reportedly killed in raids on the town this past weekend, in addition to attacks the group launched on six neighboring villages.

The Nigerian government is denying reports that Boko Haram have taken Damboa. From Reuters:

Abdulkair Ibrahim, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Borno, said the agency had records of 15,204 people who had fled Damboa and the six villages — Kimba, Madaragrau, Mandafuma, Chikwar Kir, Bomburatai and Sabon Kwatta.

Addressing press in the capital Abuja on Monday, Defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade appeared to deny that Boko Haram had taken over Damboa and the surrounding areas, when asked about reports that the military had fled and the insurgents had hoisted their black flags in the town.

"We are not conceding any portion of this country to any terrorist group," Ibrahim said. "Our patrols are active and they are stepping up their activities to reverse any insecurity there."

Vigilantes defending towns and villages from militant attacks, however, tell the BBC that Boko Haram has indeed taken over Damboa, further fueling arguments that the Nigerian government has proven incapable of defending the country from attacks.

Boko Haram's flag had been hoisted outside the home of Damboa's traditional ruler, and the town's entrance, he said.

The group had also seized the military barracks, which government soldiers had abandoned after an earlier attack by the militants, the vigilante leader added.

As Al Jazeera reports, more than 2,000 people have been killed in Nigeria this year in Boko Haram-led attacks and an estimated 750,000 people have left their homes in fear for their safety.

[Image via AP]