At least 32 people were killed this week in northern Nigeria after armed groups attacked remote communities in two states, authorities have said.
Local officials and residents told The Associated Press news agency on Thursday that the killings and the abduction of 24 people in Niger and Sokoto states were carried out by the marauding gunmen operating across the northwest and central parts of Nigeria who are notorious for abducting hundreds of school children and travellers for ransom.
The attacks happened barely 48 hours after about 40 people were killed in the country’s north.
In the north-central Niger state, assailants attacked Muya local government area (LGA) on Tuesday morning, killing 14 people and abducting seven women, according to Garba Mohammed, the chairman of Munya LGA.
“These bandits invaded one of the communities around 2am (01:00 GMT) yesterday, set the houses ablaze, burnt the people in their rooms while some of them [the attackers] were standing outside; those trying to escape were caught and slaughtered,” said Mohammed.
A police spokesperson confirmed the incident to the AP but said he had no further details.
After the raid in Kachiwe village, the assailants went to two more communities nearby, killing two people they saw on their way before killing 16 more residents, the official added.
Mohammed said the gunmen took advantage of a blockade of telecommunications access that has been imposed by authorities to stem the exchange of information between gunmen and local residents acting as informants.
During a similar attack in the northwest Sokoto state, 17 people were abducted from their homes in Sabon Birni local government area, according to Amina al-Mustapha, the state lawmaker from the affected area.
“We are under bandits now; We are suffering now,” the legislator said, adding that “at least 60 percent” of about 500,000 residents in Sabon Birni have fled the community, some taking refuge in neighbouring Niger which is just about 160km (100 miles) away.
Violent attacks by the assailants known locally as bandits are common across the northwest and central parts of Nigeria, especially in remote communities where there is no adequate security presence.
The gangs have been increasingly targeting schools this year, kidnapping students and schoolchildren to squeeze ransom from authorities and parents.
Authorities have said that special military operations targeted at restoring peace in the affected states have been yielding results, with dozens of the assailants often killed when their hideouts in abandoned forest reserves are bombarded. Alongside the telecommunications blackout, northern states have also imposed tight restrictions on movement and trade to try and control the gunmen.
But Nigeria’s security operatives, especially those operating in violence hotspots, are still outnumbered by the gunmen who often raid communities in their hundreds. The assailants are made up of various groups and 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.
In Sokoto state, lawmaker al-Mustapha told the AP that the Sabon Birni area had five military bases as of last year, but “now, we have only one in the entire with security operatives present,” with the others abandoned after suffering attacks.