Jos – Gunmen have killed dozens of people after ransacking villages in central Nigeria, local sources said, in the latest violence blamed on heavily armed criminal gangs.
The attacks on Sunday on villages in Plateau state left more than 100 people dead with scores of homes destroyed, two local community leaders and the commander of a local vigilante force said Tuesday.
Details of the attack are sketchy, with local officials and security forces confirming the assault but declining to give a death toll.
“Many people were killed with houses and properties destroyed,” Plateau State Governor Simon Bako Lalong said in a statement that condemned the violence but gave no precise toll.
One local community leader, Malam Usman Abdul, told AFP on Monday that 54 dead bodies were found at Kukawa village, 16 local vigilantes were also found dead at Shuwaka village, 30 villagers were recovered at Gyambahu and four more were found around other villages.
“People are still looking for their family members,” he said.
Bala Yahaya, operational commander of the local vigilantes that work with security forces, told AFP on Tuesday that they had recovered 107 bodies, including 16 members of his group.
Another community leader also gave a similar figure for the number of fatalities.
Security forces and local government officials did not respond to requests for confirmation.
Major Ishaku Takwa, military spokesman, said on Monday that many villages were ransacked but that the number of casualties was still being verified.
Northwest and central states in Africa’s most populous nation have long struggled with a security crisis that has emerged from tensions and clashes between farmers and herders over water and land.
Tit-for-tat revenge killings spiralled into broader criminality as gangs known locally as bandits with hundreds of members target villages for raids, mass kidnapping and looting.
Despite a military campaign to flush them out of their forest hideouts, attacks by bandit gangs have intensified.
Last month, gunmen blew up rail tracks and attacked a train between the capital Abuja and the northwestern city of Kaduna, killing eight people and abducting an unspecified number of other passengers.