At least 50 people have been killed and dozens abducted by gunmen in Plateau state in central Nigeria, residents and a community leader said on Monday.
It is the latest in a spate of attacks by armed gangs in central and northern parts of Africa’s most populous nation.
“This is again very sad and we strongly condemn it. The security (forces) should ensure the immediate rescue of all abducted persons,” said Jonathan Ishaku, spokesman for Plateau Elders’ Forum.
He said at least 50 were dead and 70 people, including women and children, were kidnapped from nine villages late on Sunday afternoon. A spokesman for the state governor, Simon Lalong, said “many people were killed, with houses and properties destroyed”. He did not give a death toll.
Such attacks are not common in Plateau. But the state shares a border with the northwestern Kaduna state, where suspected bandits – a loose term for gangs of outlaws carrying out robberies and kidnappings – blew up train tracks, killed eight people and kidnapped dozens last month.
Fifteen soldiers were last week killed by gunmen who attacked a Kaduna army base.
Telephone service is patchy in most of Nigeria’s rural areas, making it difficult for villagers to seek immediate help from security forces, who are stretched fighting armed groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in the northeast.
Isahya Solomon from Kukawa, one of the villages that was attacked, said when he heard shooting he fled with his family in a car and returned at night after the gunmen had left.
His house and several others had been torched while shops were looted and villagers were retrieving bodies of relatives, he told Reuters by phone on Monday from Jos, Plateau state’s capital city.
“In our community … 38 persons were killed. Many of our houses were burnt to ashes, many shops were looted,” said Solomon.