KANO, NIGERIA: Twenty-six people were killed in two days of violence blamed on cattle thieves in northern Nigeria, the National Emergency Management Agency said on Wednesday.
Bandits on motorcycles attacked several villages on both sides of the border between Sokoto and Zamfara states on Monday and Tuesday, shooting residents, burning homes and stealing cows.
“At the moment, 26 dead bodies have been recovered from the attacks,” NEMA spokesperson Suleiman Kadir said. “The toll may rise with the latest attack from yesterday (Tuesday).”
Two of the affected villages were in the Rabah district of Sokoto, he said, adding that more than 1,000 people had been made homeless and travelled to the town of Gandi.
Kidnapping and cattle rustling gangs operate just over the state border, he added. The violence was “not unconnected”, he said.
Sokoto state police spokesperson Cordelia Nwawe said: “Three communities in Zamfara and two villages close to Rabah were completely burnt.” Full details were “sketchy”, she added.
Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have for years been terrorised by cattle thieves and kidnappers who raid villages, steal cows, abduct residents for ransom and burn homes.
The attacks have prompted villages to form local militia for protection however they, too, are accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected bandits.
But that in turn leads to reprisals.
In April, troops were deployed to Zamfara to fight the gangs while the police outlawed the civilian militia in an attempt to stop the tit-for-tat killings.
It was not immediately clear whether the latest attacks were connected with the face-off between the bandits and vigilantes.
Last week the police recovered the bodies of 41 suspected bandits with their throats slit in a forest and nearby river in the Zurmi area of Zamfara.
Police arrested 15 militia members in connection with the killings.