AFP/ PTI

Gunmen kill 17 in Nigeria village attack: Witnesses, police

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Kano, Dec 24: Gunmen at the weekend killed 17 people in the latest attack on villages in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state, witnesses and police said Monday.

The assault came just days after 25 people were killed in similar raids on two villages in the region and appeared to be part of a long-running cycle of violence between bandits and local communities.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed Magami village in the Maradun district area on Saturday, shooting indiscriminately as residents fled.

"After the attack, we collected 17... bodies, which we buried," Magami resident Kasimu Bello told AFP.

"The gunmen entered the village on several motorcycles, shooting people as they tried to flee," he said.

Another resident, Umaru Bawa, confirmed the attack, saying "the bandits pursued people like chickens and shot them dead as they ran into the bush." On Wednesday, 25 people were killed when gunmen raided two villages in Birnin Magaji district.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the latest attacks and said that reinforcements would be deployed "to protect local populations".

On Monday, two people died after police fired on hundreds of people displaced by the attacks in Tsafe district who were staging a protest, locals said.

"The protest turned violent and the protesters set a section of the local government secretariat on fire," said Lawwali Umeh, a resident in the area.

"The police responded and fired at the crowd. Two people were killed," he said.

More than 40 people had been killed by bandits in 16 villages in the past two weeks, he said.

Another resident, Usmanu Abdullahi, confirmed the details of the protest. Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have for years been wracked by cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom.

That has prompted villagers to form vigilante gangs as a protection force. They have been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings.

In April, troops were deployed to Zamfara to fight the gangs and police banned the civilian militia in an attempt to curb the cycle of reprisals.

Early this month, an influential traditional ruler in the state called for civilian militia members to be given assault rifles to defend themselves.

The continued raids by cattle thieves in Zamfara -- as well as a conflict over resources between farmers and herders in central Nigeria -- have added to Nigeria's security challenges as the military battles Boko Haram jihadists in the northeast.

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