Lagos, Nigeria — Local officials said armed groups attacked rural villages in northern Nigeria, killing 16 worshipers at mosques and abducting others.
The raid on the village of Bale in the Mashegu region of Niger lasted for hours on Thursday, said local government chairman Alhassan Isah Mazakuka.
Dozens of perpetrators arrived by motorcycle, rampaged through the village, praying at the mosque and killing the looted people, he said.
“These people (shooters) are dangerous,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Friday. “They killed 16 people and kidnapped many of us. They can’t be counted, so we don’t even know how many they kidnapped.”
Nigerian police confirmed the incident, but said only nine residents had been killed. Police have been accused of downplaying the number of casualties in such attacks in the past.
The attack is the latest intensifying violence in northwestern and central northern Nigeria, with armed groups targeting remote communities to kill and kidnap residents for ransom.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed that 23 travelers were killed elsewhere in the troubled northern region of the West African country.
The majority of the attackers consisted of young Fula men who traditionally worked as nomadic herders and were involved in decades of conflict with Hausa’s agricultural community over access to water and rangelands. It has been.
Armed groups appear to be increasingly organized and armed, but do not publicly declare political objectives or motivations. So far, the lawless group, which the Governor of Nigeria recently said has more than 150 people, has no name or known leader, but was recently declared a terrorist organization by the courts.
Nigerian security forces have already gone too far as they have fought Islamic extremists in the northeast for over a decade. In many remote communities in northern Nigeria, armed groups have surpassed and defeated security forces.
When the troops arrive to calm the attack, the bandits retreat to the surrounding woodlands. However, after the soldiers have left, violent attacks will resume. Vulnerable rural communities say they need more protection.
“We are suffering from bandits (here),” said Mazakka, chairman of the local government. “All we need is our prayer now, screaming for government support. The government has done its best, but it still needs help.”
By Chinedu Asadu