At least 32 local vigilantes have been killed in northwestern Nigeria in the latest attack by criminal gangs that terrorise the region, witnesses told AFP on Friday.
Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a group of militia manning an anti-bandit checkpoint late on Thursday near Kware village in Shinkafi district, Zamfara state.
“We recovered 32 bodies of the vigilantes after the attack by the bandits,” Sukaiman Shuaibu, a local chief in the area said.
“The death toll may rise because many people are still unaccounted for and search teams are combing the bush for more bodies,” Shuaibu added.
The attack occurred days after 27 people were killed in raids on four villages in the region.
The vigilantes who were killed on Thursday were part of a militia force providing security for traders in the area, Kware resident Alu Wadatau said.
“The bandits came in large numbers around 3:30 pm (1430GMT) and opened fire on the vigilantes,” said Wadatau.
“They killed 32 people on the spot and injured many others.”
Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu confirmed the attack but declined to give details.
Farming and herding communities in Zamfara state have long been terrorised by gangs who raid villages, stealing cattle and kidnapping residents for ransom.
The repeat attacks prompted villages to form local vigilante groups for protection, but they have been accused of extrajudicial killings of suspected bandits, leading to reprisals.
Last week residents of Danjibga village in Zamfara killed 59 bandits who attempted to raid the village.
Zamfara is a political stronghold for President Muhammadu Buhari, who carried the state in last week’s presidential election that handed him a second four-year term.
He has pledged to continue confronting Nigeria’s many security crises, while giving few specifics.