Gunmen on motorcycles entered three villages in coordinated attacks and shot at people trying to flee, a local official said.
Gunmen have killed at least 48 people in attacks on three villages in Zamfara state in northwestern Nigeria, a local official and residents said.
Dozens of gunmen on motorcycles entered the three villages in coordinated attacks, shooting at people trying to flee, Aminu Suleiman, administrative head of the Bakura district, where the villages are located, said on Sunday.
“A total of 48 people were killed by the bandits in the three villages [Damri, Kalahe and Sabon Garin] attacked Friday afternoon,” Suleiman said.
Hardest hit was Damri, where gunmen killed 32 people, Suleiman told AFP. The victims included patients in a hospital.
“They burned down a police patrol car, killing two security personnel.”
Since 2010, bandit gangs have rioted in vast swathes of northern Nigeria, but only in recent years has the crisis ballooned to national prominence in Africa’s most populous country.
The term “bandits” is an umbrella term for criminal gangs that plan frequent episodes of kidnapping, mutilation, sexual violence and murder of citizens in the northern parts of the country.
Data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project shows that bandits were responsible for more than 2,600 civilian deaths in 2021, far more than attributed to rebel groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the same year, and almost three times more. the number of victims in 2020.
Troops deployed in the three villages raided by bandits on Friday engaged the attackers in a firefight, forcing them to retreat, Suleiman said.
Abubakar Maigoro, a resident of Damri, said the gunmen who attacked his village went on a rampage before looting livestock and food supplies.
“We buried 48 people killed in the attacks,” Maigoro said.
Nigerian police did not respond to requests for comment.
Criminals have recently stepped up their attacks despite military operations against their hideouts.
The so-called bandits maintain camps in a vast forest, straddling the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger.
In the last two months, they attacked a train traveling between the capital Abuja and the city of Kaduna, kidnapping dozens of passengers; massacred more than 100 villagers; and killed a dozen members of vigilante groups.
In early January, gunmen killed more than 200 people in Zamfara state.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army commander, has been under intense pressure to end bandit violence before leaving office next year at the end of his two terms in power.
Buhari called on the security forces to “do everything possible to put an immediate end to the horrific killings.”
“People in the countryside in Zamfara and elsewhere must be allowed to have peace,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Authorities in Zamfara say more than 700,000 people have been displaced by the violence, prompting the opening of eight camps to house them.
Escalating violence has also forced thousands to flee to neighboring Niger, with more than 11,000 seeking refuge in November, according to the United Nations.