At least 48 people have died after heavily armed men attacked three villages in Zamfara State, according to local authorities.
The administrative head of the Bakura district where the villages are located, Amin Suleiman, told reporters that the gunmen arrived in the villages on motorcycles, shooting sporadically at villagers trying to flee.
“A total of 48 people were killed by the bandits in the three villages (Damri, Kalahe and Sabon Garin) attacked on Friday afternoon,” Suleiman said.
According to Suleiman, the worst-hit village was Damri, where the gunmen locally known as bandits killed 32 people. “They burned a police patrol vehicle, killing two security personnel,” he added.
The term “bandits” is frequently used to refer to the criminal gangs masterminding frequent bouts of abduction, looting, maiming, sexual violence and killings of citizens across the northern states of the country. The so-called bandits maintain camps in a vast forest, straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.
Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project shows that bandits were responsible for more than 2,600 civilian deaths in 2021 – many more than those attributed to rebel groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the same year – and almost three times the number of victims in 2020.
Despite military operations targetted at their hideouts, bandit attacks have become even more frequent and bloody, ballooning into national prominence in Nigeria.
Officials in Zamfara say more than 700,000 people have been displaced by the violence, prompting the opening of eight camps to accommodate them.
The escalating violence has also forced thousands to flee to neighbouring Niger, with over 11,000 seeking refuge in November, according to the United Nations.