0454 GMT February 21, 2020
According to local witnesses, armed members of a cattle-rustling gang on Thursday attacked the neighboring villages of Kabaro and Danmami in the Maru district in Nigeria’s northern Zamfara State on motorcycles in what appeared to be a reprisal assault after a gang member was caught and killed by a local vigilante group, presstv.com reported.
“Twenty people were killed in Kabaro and seven others were also shot dead in Danmami,” said Kabaro resident Lawwali Usmanu. “We buried them this morning before the Friday prayers.”
Zamfara state police spokesman Mohammed Shehu confirmed the attacks but refused to elaborate on casualty figures; and police officers had been deployed for on-the-spot assessment.
Twenty six people were killed in an attack earlier in the month on gold miners in nearby Anka district, which officials also blamed on the cattle rustlers.
The Thursday mass killings were the latest in a series of deadly assaults by cattle thieves on herding and farming communities in the state.
Residents of the two villages had reportedly armed themselves with locally-manufactured guns to fight off the cattle rustlers, who possessed superior weapons.
“The perpetrators are the same cattle thieves that have been terrorizing us for years, stealing our cattle and abducting people for ransom,” said another local resident, identified as Bubr Murtala.
“All we have for defense are muskets but the bandits use modern firearms,” Murtala said.
Nigeria is combating a range of security threats throughout the West African country, from the Daesh-linked Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast to oil militants in the south.
With the lack of a strong police force and an effective judicial system in Africa’s most populous nations, villagers have established local vigilante groups to battle the gangs. But the vigilantes are themselves accused of engaging in extra-judicial killings.