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Dozens killed in days of attacks in Nigeria’s troubled north

January 31, 2022 GMT

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Dozens of civilians and security personnel have been killed in attacks by gunmen in three states in Nigeria’s troubled northern region, authorities said Monday.

The armed men that killed dozens in the northwest and central regions targeted local communities including some of their former members who had laid down their arms, according to the police and government officials.

In Katsina state, “the gunmen came in over 200 motorcycles” and invaded Ilela village which is just 77 kilometers (47 miles) from the state capital, police spokesman Gambo Isah told The Associated Press.

“It was a serious fight between the repentant and unrepentant bandits,” Isah told AP. “They ganged up from everywhere against the repentant bandits … 12 persons were confirmed dead.”

In Niger state which neighbors Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, authorities said many people including 11 security personnel were killed on Saturday when “terrorists” overran a security outpost and attacked neighboring villages in Shiroro local government area.

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The attackers numbered more than 100, according to Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello who described the incident as “unfortunate and regrettable.”

Eleven persons were also killed in Kaduna state early Sunday morning when assailants attacked the Kurmin Masara village in Zangon Kataf local government area, a state official said in a statement.

“According to the reports, troops of the Nigerian Air Force Special Forces who responded to distress calls from the area also fell into an ambush as they mobilized to the scene of the attack,” said Samuel Aruwan, Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs. “Over 30 houses and properties were burned in the attack.”

He said authorities have been deployed in the area to arrest the assailants who mostly consist of young men from the Fulani ethnic group, who had traditionally worked as nomadic cattle herders and are caught up in a decades-long conflict with Hausa farming communities over access to water and grazing land.

Nigerian authorities recently declared the gunmen operating in more than 100 groups as terrorists but the situation has not noticeably improved, especially for the remote communities where security operatives are outnumbered and outgunned.

Saturday’s attack in Niger state “would have been unsuccessful” if villagers ... “had alerted the security agencies when they noticed movements of the terrorists towards the town,” the Niger state governor said, blaming the residents for the killings of their community members.

But locals themselves have been killed or abducted in the past for simply informing security operatives about the movement of the armed groups.

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In addition to women and children, local authorities have also been targeted in the violence across northern Nigeria. The chairman of Shiroro LGA in Niger told AP Monday that his relatives including his elder brother and children have been held for more than a month because he has been talking to reporters about the attacks.

“We have really run out of patience with the terrorists,” Niger Governor Bello admitted while condemning the latest violence via a statement issued by his office. “We’ll use every means possible to bring an end to these incessant bloody attacks on innocent people.”

In a separate incident, five Islamic extremists were killed over the weekend in Nigeria’s northeast where the militants have waged an insurgency against the government, according to the Nigerian army.