LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — At least 32 people have been killed in Nigeria’s north after armed groups attacked remote communities in 2 states, authorities said, the latest incident in a spiraling cycle of violence in Africa’s most populous country.
Local officials and residents told The Associated Press that the killings and the abduction of 24 persons 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 travelers for ransom.
The attacks happened barely 48 hours after about 40 persons were killed in the northern region in what residents said could be a part of a prolonged religious conflict between Muslim and Christian communities in Kaduna state.
In the north central Niger state, assailants attacked Muya local government area on Tuesday morning, killing 14 people and abducting seven women, according to Garba Mohammed, the chairman of Munya LGA. The police spokesperson confirmed the incident to the AP but said he had no further details.
“These bandits invaded one of the communities around 2 a.m. 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.
After the raid in Kachiwe, the assailants went to two more communities nearby, killing 2 persons they saw on their way before killing 16 more residents, the official added.
Mohammed said the gunmen took advantage of the blockade of telecommunications access. Authorities imposed the block to stem the exchange of information between gunmen and local residents who were acting as informants.
During a similar attack in the northwest Sokoto state, 17 persons were abducted from their homes in Sabon Birni local government area, according to Amina Al-Mustapha, the state lawmaker from the affected area.
The bandits attacked the Gatawa community in the neighboring country Niger on Tuesday, less than a week after earlier attacking the area and killing 22 persons mostly security operatives,
“We are under bandits now; We are suffering now,” the lawmaker said, adding that “at least 60%” of about 500,000 residents in Sabon Birni have fled the community, some taking refuge in Niger Republic which is just about 100 miles (160 kilometers) 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.
Authorities have said that special military operations targeted at restoring peace in the troubled states have been yielding results with dozens of the assailants often killed when their hideouts in abandoned forest reserves are bombarded.
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 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.
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