Gunmen have killed at least 43 people in an attack in northern Nigeria’s Sokoto state, the governor’s office has said.
The assault began at a weekly market in Goronyo on Sunday and continued into Monday, Sokoto Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said in a statement.
Gunmen across northwestern Nigeria have killed scores of people and kidnapped hundreds more for ransom over the past year in a security crisis that the government is trying to tackle via communications blackouts, military operations and stepped up policing.
Iliyasu Abba, a local resident and trader, told the news agency Reuters that there were 60 bodies at Goronyo General Hospital mortuary and that others sustained injuries while escaping.
“The gunmen stormed the market as it was crowded with shoppers and traders,” he said.
The men were “shooting sporadically on us after they surrounded the market firing at every direction killing people.”
Bandits have terrorised northwest and central Nigeria for years, but attacks have become more violent in recent months.
Another village market was raided on October 8, in Sabon Birni district near the border with Niger, killing 19 people.
Last month, 17 Nigerian security personnel were killed when gunmen attacked their base in Sabon Birni’s Dama village, an assault the military blamed on ISIL (ISIS)-aligned fighters.
“We’re faced and bedevilled by many security challenges in our own area here, particularly banditry, kidnapping and other associated crimes,” Sokoto government spokesman Muhammad Bello said.
Nigerian troops began conducting air and ground operations last month, targeting bandit camps in the neighbouring Zamfara state.
Officials in Sokoto expressed concern that these networks had relocated to their area to escape the crackdown.
Sokoto Governor Tambuwal requested “the presence of more forces in the state and the deployment of more resources,” according to Bello, who spoke on the governor’s behalf.
Marauding gunmen operating across the northwest and central parts of Nigeria are notorious for abducting hundreds of school children and travellers for ransom, especially in remote communities where there is no adequate security presence.
Parts of Sokoto, like other neighbouring states in the northwestern part of the country, are under a telecommunications blockade as part of a security operation to disrupt the operations of the armed gangs.
Nigeria’s security operatives are outnumbered by the gunmen, who often raid communities in their hundreds.
The assailants are made up of various groups. Security analysts have said they are mostly young men from the Fulani ethnic group who had traditionally worked as nomadic cattle herders and are caught up in a decades-long conflict with Hausa farming communities over access to water and grazing land.