By Agence France-Presse
At least 26 people were killed after cattle thieves raided several villages in Nigeria’s northern Sokoto state, police said Tuesday.
Armed bandits on motorcycles attacked Warwana, Tabkin Kwasa and Dutsi, a trio of neighbouring villages in Rabah district, late Sunday, shooting residents as they fled.
“Twenty six people were killed in the attack — they included 24 males and two females,” Sokoto state police commissioner Murtala Usman Mani told AFP.
“The criminals came on motorcycles and attacked three herding settlements, shooting people,” said Mani, who attended the victims’ funerals on Monday.
Residents said the gunmen rode into the villages on two dozen motorcycles, three men on each.
“They attacked around 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) and began shooting people without warning,” Warwana resident Kabiru Jabbi said.
The three villages border Zamfara state where kidnapping and cattle rustling gangs operate.
The gunmen were believed to have launched the attacks from Zamfara forests where the gangs are based, Mani said.
In July last year armed bandits killed more than 30 people and torched homes in raids on five villages bordering Sokoto and Zamfara states, two of them in Rabah district.
Farming and herding communities in Zamfara state have long been terrorised by such gangs who raid villages, stealing cattle, kidnapping residents for ransom and burning homes.
The incessant attacks prompted villages to form local vigilante groups as a protection force but they are themselves accused of extrajudicial killings of suspected bandits.
The killings by vigilantes attract reprisals by motorcycle-riding criminal gangs who carry out indiscriminate killings and burn villages in retaliation.
In April, the Nigerian central government deployed troops to Zamfara to combat the gangs while police outlawed the vigilantes to end the tit-for-tat killings.
It was not clear whether the latest attacks were connected with the face-off between the bandits and vigilante groups.