Gunmen on motorbikes killed 43 people in waves of attacks in northern Nigeria, police said Monday, the latest violence by criminal gangs raiding villages and stealing livestock.
“Twenty-five people were killed in four villages,” said Ibrahim Kaoje, Sokoto state’s top police officer.
The string of attacks, carried out overnight Saturday to Sunday in Nigeria’s far northwestern Sokoto state, saw the gangs ride out from forest hideouts, speeding into villages and unleashing their weapons.
“They opened fire on the village indiscriminately,” said Abdullahi Dantani, from the village of Satiru, where 18 people were murdered.
In Sokoto state’s Rabah district, gunmen rode into four villages -Rukunni, Tsage, Giire, and Kalfu -massacring 25 people.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, “expressed deep shock and sadness” over the attacks promising to act swiftly.
Sokoto state Governor Aminu Tambuwal was among those that attended the funeral of 25 persons.
Tambuwal together with heads of security agencies, traditional rulers and government officials later condoled with the families of the victims after the burial held at Gandi town.
The bandits who were in large numbers raided Kalhu, Tsage and Geeri villages near Gandi and where they killed the 25 persons.
The attackers were said to have engaged in indiscriminate shooting from around 5pm on Saturday till Sunday morning, after which they carted away hundreds of cows, sheep and other valuables.
“The President, who was briefed about the incident and the arrests so far made by the police, condoles with Governor Aminu Tambuwal and the people of the State over the tragic incident”, the Presidency statement said.
“President Buhari strongly condemns all acts of violence and terrorism against innocent Nigerians, reiterating that perpetrators and sponsors of such dastardly acts would be held accountable under the law.
Buhari prayed for the quick recovery of “all those injured and assured that his administration will not relent in the fight to neutralise terrorists, bandits and kidnappers around the country.”
Rise in banditry –
The gangs have long been a scourge of rural communities in northern Nigeria, raiding villages, stealing cattle, burning homes, looting food, and kidnapping for ransom.
The communities have taken up arms to defend themselves, although the vigilantes are often accused of extrajudicial killings of suspected bandits.
Human Rights Watch on Monday warned of a “dramatic uptick in banditry, kidnapping, and killings” in the northwestern states of Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara, which borders Sokoto state.
“Security forces have failed to respond effectively to threats to people’s lives and security,” HRW said.
The gangs are one of several security challenges facing Nigeria, including attacks from Islamist fighters from Boko Haram in northeastern regions, as well as battles between livestock herders and settled farmers.
This has left the military overstretched and seen 76-year-old Buhari criticised for failing to protect lives and property.
Buhari, who was sworn in last month for a second four-year presidential term, has promised to boost security.