Nigerian gangs kill 200 villagers in reprisal attack, say residents

Armed criminals raided homes in Zamfara state following air strikes

President Muhammadu Buhari, centre, said the killing of civilians in Zamfara state was the work of mass murderers. Photo: AFP

At least 200 villagers in north-western Nigeria have been killed in reprisal attacks by what the country's president called "bandits", following air strikes on their hideouts.

More than 300 armed criminals on motorbikes stormed eight villages in the Anka area of Zamfara state on Tuesday and started shooting.

Residents said they returned to hold mass burials on Saturday after Nigeria's military recaptured the villages. The state government said 58 people were killed during the attacks.

However, Ummaru Makeri, who lost his wife and three children, said 154 people were buried. Other residents said the total death toll was at least 200.

Nigeria's military said it carried out air strikes in the early hours of Monday on targets in Zamfar's Gusami forest and west Tsamre village, killing more than 100 gang members, including two of their leaders.

In a separate incident, 30 students who were abducted from their college in the north-western state of Kebbi were freed on Saturday, a spokesman for the state governor said.

There have been a series of attacks in north-west Nigeria, which has witnessed a sharp rise in mass abductions and other violent crimes since late 2020 as the government struggles to maintain law and order.

President Muhammadu Buhari said on Saturday that the military had acquired more equipment to track down and eliminate criminal gangs that have been subjecting people to a reign of terror, including through the imposition of illegal taxes on under-siege communities.

"The latest attacks on innocent people by the bandits are an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from our military forces," Mr Buhari said.

He said the government would not relent in its military operations.

Updated: January 9th 2022, 11:37 AM