Local residents were given access to the villages on Saturday after the military captured the communities to organize mass burials, they told Reuters.
Zamfara’s information officer, Ibrahim Dosara, told CNN on Sunday that four parishes in the state’s Anka and Bukkuyum districts were attacked in the deadly raids, while widespread casualty figures were contested.
“It’s not true (that 200 people were killed). The attacks were carried out in two local government districts, namely Bukkuyum and Anka. Four communities in these areas were attacked; one in Bukkuyum, where 36 people were killed, and three in Anka, where 22 people were killed … These figures have been compiled and sent to the state government by the village leaders, “Dosara told CNN.
Ummaru Makeri, a resident who lost his wife and three children in the attack, said around 154 people were buried, including several vigilante groups who were killed. Local residents said the total death toll was at least 200.
Reuters reported on Friday that at least 30 people were killed in the Anka parish of Zamfara when more than 300 armed bandits on motorcycles stormed eight villages and sporadically started shooting on Tuesday.
The military said it carried out air strikes on targets in Gusami Forest and West Tsamre village in Zamfara state in the early hours of Monday, which intelligence reports killed more than 100 bandits, including two of their leaders.
A resident who refused to be identified told Reuters the attacks on the villages could be linked to the military strikes.
Dosara told CNN that security would be strengthened in the affected districts and aid would be distributed to displaced victims.
“Money and supplies have been made available to the displaced to rebuild their homes. The government is making every effort to ensure that people receive the necessary protection.”
There have been a number of attacks in northwestern Nigeria, with mass kidnappings and other violent crimes rising sharply since late 2020 as the government struggles to maintain law and order.
In another incident, 30 students kidnapped from their college in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kebbi were released on Saturday, a spokesman for Kebbi governor said without details.
President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement on Saturday that the military had acquired more equipment to track down and eliminate criminal gangs who are subjecting people to a reign of terror, including through illegally imposing taxes on beleaguered communities.
“The bandits’ recent attacks on innocent people are an act of desperation by mass murderers who are now under relentless pressure from our armed forces,” Buhari said.
Buhari added that the government will not give in to its military operations to get rid of the bandits.