Multiple residents said Islamists overwhelmed the soldiers before entering Nafada where they set fire to a police station, robbed a bank and razed a political party office.
They then drove off in 4x4 trucks and on motorcycles to the town of Ashaka 20 kilometres (12 miles) away, where the French industrial giant Lafarge has a cement plant.
Staff at the Ashaka plant said French nationals were on site at the time of the raid, but there was no firm evidence about their condition, with the security forces and officials in Gombe unavailable to comment.
The twin attacks underscored the worsening security situation in the northeast, where violence has continued at a relentless pace despite government claims of a truce with the Islamist rebels.
Police station, bank targeted
"They came in large numbers in vans and on motorcycles, shouting Allahu Akbar (God is greater)," said Nafada resident Abubakar Galda, in an account supported by other locals and a rescue worker.
Nafada is near the border with Yobe, a state under emergency rule since last year because of the Islamist uprising and where Boko Haram is believed to control several towns and villages.