Dozens of Boko Haram gunmen dressed in military uniform stormed Gumushi, Amuda and Arbokko in all-terrain trucks and motorcycles, opening fire on residents and torching homes with petrol bombs, they said.
"Boko Haram attacked the three villages yesterday morning in which 35 people were killed, including 26 in Gumushi," a military officer in the state capital Maiduguri told AFP on condition of anonymity. "The insurgents hurled petrol bombs into homes, setting them ablaze and shot residents as they tried to escape," he said.
He said the gunmen raided Gumushi around 6am where they killed 26 residents.
Local media however put the death toll in Gumushi at 42.
Witnesses said the gunmen also launched coordinated attacks on the neighbouring farming villages of Amuda and Arbokko, 125 kilometres from Maiduguri, killing nine people and destroying scores of houses. "The attackers came at 2am when people were asleep and went about throwing Molotov cocktails into homes which exploded and set fire," resident Pirda Takweshe told AFP.
"They then opened fire on people as they ran out of their homes, killing nine and injuring 13 others".
Boko Haram which means "Western education is forbidden", has stepped up deadly raids in northeast Nigeria in recent months, pillaging and burning entire villages and killing residents as part of its five-year-old campaign to establish an Islamic state in the north.
Violence blamed on the Islamist group has killed thousands since 2009.
News of the latest deadly raids came on the same day as Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan vowed a "total war against terrorism".