Livestock breeders and farmers in this country, which has a large population in Africa, have been confronting each other for years in the central and northwestern regions, but some groups have developed into criminal gangs known as “bandits”.
These groups attack villages, kill and smuggle in ransom money.
“This is horrible and tragic. More than 200 people were buried today (Sunday) due to the invasion of robbers,” said Satya Omar Farooq, the humanitarian minister, quoting her spokeswoman Nneka Ikem Abiebeze.
“We are also concerned about the displacement of hundreds of displaced people from their communities,” he added.
According to the official, more than 100,000 people were “displaced from their homes destroyed by the bandits, while dozens were still missing”.
On Saturday, four locals told the AFP that at least 140 people had been killed by armed groups in about ten cities in the state of Zamfara.
All four witnesses said they attended the victims’ funerals in their respective cities.
According to reports, between Wednesday and Thursday, hundreds of armed men on motorcycles stormed several towns in the Anga and Pukuim districts, firing on residents and looting houses, residents said.
– Retaliatory attacks? –
Nigerian President Mohammed Buhari on Saturday condemned the attacks this week, but did not comment on the death toll.
Central and northwestern Nigeria has been a hotbed of criminal gangs that have been attacking, killing or abducting villages for years.
The Nigerian government on Wednesday classified the attacks carried out by these “bandits” in general as “acts of terrorism” and announced that it would tighten the law against their perpetrators and their informants and supporters.
The Nigerian Armed Forces announced this week that it had killed 537 “armed bandits and other criminal elements”, making 374 arrests since May last year and releasing 452 “abducted civilians”.
According to Kabir Adamu, an analyst at Beacon Consulting Nigeria, the deaths reported by residents may have been a response to these police and military operations.
Locals say the attacks were in retaliation for a security operation against the robbers’ caravan.
The existence of these gangs began to appear in the international press last year, when a group kidnapped hundreds of students in a series of mass abductions in schools and universities.
Students are often released quickly in exchange for the ransom, but another 200 youths are still missing, according to the UN in September.
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