Nigerian officials said on Sunday that the death toll in attacks by armed groups in northwestern Zamfara state last week has risen to more than 200. The attacks, which started on Tuesday, went on till Thursday in nine villages. Officials say that many more villagers have not been traced.
Residents of Zamfra State say the attacks were retaliation for last week’s military raids against the bandits.
Last Monday, a military airstrike on the hideout of armed men in the Gusami forest hideout as well as in the village of Tamare in Zamfara reportedly killed more than 100 bandits, including two of their leaders.
Enraged motorcyclists in large numbers attacked local communities for several days, shooting people on sight and burning homes.
State officials initially said 58 people had died, but officials said on Saturday that more than 200 bodies were buried and several others were missing.
Last week’s attacks are among the deadliest the region has seen in years. Officials say 10,000 people have been displaced and are too afraid to return to their homes.
On Saturday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement, “The latest attacks on innocent people by bandits are an act of desperation by mass murderers, who are now under constant pressure from our military forces.”
Security analyst Kabiru Adamu said the security forces were making progress and gave a reason.
“One of the leading bandits named Belo Turji wrote a letter last month expressing his desire to [as it were] stop what he is doing. The letter was very clear,” Adamu said.
Zamfara State Police spokesman Shehu Mohamed said officers were gathering intelligence on the attacks from villages and victims and would help with future operations.
“The information we have got will definitely help the security agencies to achieve more success in subsequent operations,” he said.
North-west and north-central Nigeria are reporting an increase in the incidents of attacks on communities, looting and mass kidnappings for ransom that began in late 2020.
The government has repeatedly promised a solution to this problem.