Gunmen suspected to be from the Boko Haram Islamist militant group kidnapped two traditional Muslim rulers from northeast Nigeria.

The gunmen snatched the Emir of Gwoza, Alhaji Idriss Timta, and the Emir of Uba, Alhaji Ismaila Mamza, from vehicles on the road at Zhur, a remote community in the southern part of Borno state.

They were on their way to a funeral, a security source and a Borno state government official told Reuters. Neither were authorised to be named.

One of the sources said military forces had been deployed to the area to rescue the hostages, although such missions were always fraught with danger.

Despite a year-long military offensive against it, Islamist group Boko Haram has been able to run riot across the northeast and bomb cities across the country.

It is fighting to reinstate an ancient Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.

Suspected Islamist gunmen riding motorbikes killed 32 people in the northeastern village of Gurmushi near the border with Cameroon yesterday.

Nigeria's president said he had ordered a full-scale operation against Boko Haram Islamist militants.

Goodluck Jonathan also sought to reassure parents of 219 schoolgirls being held by the group that their children would be freed.

Boko Haram has been kidnapping schoolgirls to take as "brides" for commanders for more than a year.

The attack on Chibok last month shocked the world and galvanised an international effort to free them.

The Islamists are also treating them as hostages, demanding a prisoner swap.