Armed cattle thieves have killed at least 35 people in five villages in the northwestern Nigerian state of Zamfara in recent violence in the troubled region, police said on Saturday.
However, local residents said up to 43 villagers were killed in the attack late Thursday.
“The bandits killed 35 people in the five villages,” said state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu to the AFP news agency.
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Armed motorcyclists launched coordinated attacks on remote villages of Gidan Adamu, Tsauni, Gidan Baushi, Gidan Maidawa and Wari in Maradun District, shot residents and burned houses.
“The attackers left before the security teams arrived because the area is difficult to reach due to poor roads,” Shehu said.
However, local residents said 43 people were killed and seven injured in the attack.
“We found a total of 43 bodies from the villages and seven injured people,” said resident Danladi Sabo to AFP.
He said the dead were buried on Friday while the injured were taken to hospital in the state capital, Gusau.
Northwest and central Nigeria are regularly terrorized by gangs of cattle thieves and kidnappers who raid villages, kill and confiscate residents, and steal cattle after looting and burning homes.
On Wednesday, bandits killed 18 people while raiding the village of Tsauwa in neighboring Katsina state.
Last month, 53 people were killed when bandits raided six villages in the Zurmi district of Zamfara.
The gangs are mainly motivated by financial gains, but some of them can be seen in videos swearing allegiance to the jihadists who are leading a 12 year insurrection to establish an Islamic state.
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Military operations and amnesty offers could not end the attacks.
On a state broadcast last month, Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle urged residents to defend themselves against “killer bandits”.
The criminals have recently focused on raiding schools and kidnapping students to extort ransom payments from parents and authorities.
On Monday, more than 100 students were kidnapped from a boarding school in the neighboring state of Kaduna in the recent mass kidnapping against schools in Nigeria.