By Agence France-Presse
Dozens of gunmen riding motorbikes launched a bandit attack on two villages in northern Nigeria on Tuesday, slaughtering 23 people eating breakfast, residents said.
Gunmen in the Kauran Namoda district of Nigeria’s Zamfara state attacked the neighbouring villages of Tunga and Kabaje as residents ate a pre-dawn meal before daylight fasting began for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“The bandits killed 23 people in the attacks,” said local leader Lawal Isah Abdullahi.
“The attackers chased people into farmland… but as they fled they shot them dead.”
Soldiers later accompanied villagers to collect and bury the dead.
“We conducted funerals for the 23 victims this afternoon,” Tunga resident Shehu Bello said.
Residents suggested the attacks were reprisal after a self-defence militia killed a motorbike taxi driver and his passengers — the wife and son of a well known bandit — as they drove to the gang’s hideout in a nearby forest.
The gunmen, who appeared to want cash and have no known ideological agenda, have carried out repeated raids on villages, stealing cattle and food, burning homes and kidnapping for ransom.
Rural communities have taken up arms to defend themselves, but these vigilantes are now accused of extra-judicial killings of suspected bandits.
The bandit gangs are one of a string of security challenges facing Nigeria, including attacks from a Islamic State-backed Boko Haram faction and renewed clashes between livestock herders and farmers.
This has left the military overstretched and seen President Muhammadu Buhari criticised for failing to protect lives and property.
Buhari, who is due to be sworn in as president for a second four-year term on Wednesday, has promised to boost security.