Nigeria Boko Haram atrocities
Nigeria has sentenced to death 54 soldiers for refusing to fight against Boko Haram insurgentsReuters

The Nigerian government has sentenced to death 54 soldiers who refused to fight against Islamist insurgents in the country, AP reported.

The soldiers, charged with "mutiny, assault and cowardice", will be executed by firing squad.

The mass death sentence was issued as the soldiers allegedly "conspired to commit mutiny against the authorities of 7 Division, Nigerian Army," and refused to deploy to recapture three towns seized by terror group Boko Haram in August.

In October, local media reported that some soldiers allegedly injured themselves to avoid deployment in areas controlled by Boko Haram. It is believed that they refused to fight the insurgents after clashes had caused the deaths of hundreds of troops.

Who are Boko Haram militants?

Boko Haram, which fights against Western influence in Nigeria and aims to impose its version of sharia law in the country, declared an Islamic caliphate in Gwoza, along the Cameroon border, in August 2014.

The group has been raiding several cities in the north of the country in a bid to take control of more land.

Violence linked to Boko Haram's insurgency has resulted in an estimated 10,000 deaths between 2002 and 2013.

Three states, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have been under a state of emergency since May 2013, due to Boko Haram's deadly attacks.

Soldiers often complain that they are deployed to rebel areas without enough ammunition or food and that they are not paid regularly.

The verdict comes as Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks in northern and central Nigeria in a bid to defeat authorities and expand its Islamic caliphate.

In its latest attack, the group killed 32 people and kidnapped scores during a raid in the Gumsuri village, Borno state.

Earlier in December, the group was believed to have carried out an attack that killed at least seven people and injured another 30 in a market place in Kano state.

Boko Haram has often targeted Kano in recent times. In December the terrorists bombed a mosque in the city during Friday prayers, killing at least 200 people in the blast and subsequent shooting massacre.

The militants' fresh assaults came weeks after the Nigerian government announced it had reached a ceasefire with the terror group.

Critics cast doubts over the validity of the ceasefire, as it was not confirmed by Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau.

Shekau released a video in which he called the claims of a truce "lies".

"We did not negotiate with anyone," he said. "It's a lie. It's a lie. We will not negotiate. What is our business with negotiation? Allah said we should not."