According to reports from police and local residents on Saturday , 53 people were killed by armed cattle thieves in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state.
Scores of motorcycle-riding gunmen marquees called bandits by locals on Thursday through Friday, invaded the villages of Kadawa, Kwata, Maduba, Ganda Samu, Saulawa and Askawa in Zurmi district, shooting residents.
The gang attacked farmers in their fields and pursued others who fled to escape the assaults.
Zamfara police spokesman Mohammed Shehu said 14 bodies have been taken to the state capital Gusau, and policemen have been deployed to the area following the attacks.
Local residents said 39 more bodies had been recovered and buried in the neighbouring town of Dauran.
Dauran resident, Haruna Abdulkarim disclosed they “… recovered 28 bodies yesterday and 11 more this morning from the villages and buried them here.”
“It was dangerous to conduct the funeral there because the bandits are harbouring in the Zurmi forest and could return to attack the funeral,” said another resident, Musa Arzika who reported the same death toll.
Villages in the Zurmi district have been repeatedly raided by bandits, and local residents blocked a major highway last week, calling on the authorities to end the attacks.
Northwest and central Nigeria have in recent years fallen prey to gangs of cattle thieves and kidnappers who raid villages, killing and kidnapping residents in addition to stealing livestock after looting and burning homes.
The gangs are largely motivated by financial gains and have no ideological leanings but there is growing concern of their infiltration by jihadists from the northeast waging a 12-year-old insurgency to establish an Islamic state.
Military operations and amnesty offers have failed to end the attacks.
In a broadcast on Friday, Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle urged residents to defend themselves against “killer bandits And not wait for security.”