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Gunmen kill 43 in several attacks on Nigeria villages

Two policemen stand guard at Unguwar Busa in Kaduna, Nigeria, on February 22, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

At least 43 people have been killed after gunmen, riding motorbikes, attacked villages in northern Nigeria.

The string of attacks -- the latest violence by criminal gangs raiding villages and stealing livestock -- were carried out overnight Saturday to Sunday in Nigeria's far northwestern Sokoto state, police said on Monday.

Gunmen rode out from forest hideouts, speeding into four villages in Sokoto state's Rabah district, killing 25 people.

"Twenty-five people were killed," said Ibrahim Kaoje, Sokoto state's top police officer. "Several domestic animals were rustled by the attackers."

Four people -- including a female informant of the gangs -- have been arrested in connection to those attacks, Kaoje said.

In a separate attack in Satiru village, in Sokoto's Isa district, attackers murdered 18 people, and then stole animals.

"We lost 18 people in the raid by the gunmen, who came into the village on motorcycles," said Satiru village resident Umeh Na-Ta'ala.

A man belonging to a vigilante group battling herdsmen stands in front of a house destroyed by a group of herdsmen in the village of Nzumoso, Nigeria on February 20, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the killings, expressing his "deep shock and sadness over the death of scores of people in the banditry attacks," in a statement issued late Sunday.

The gunmen have repeatedly conducted raids on villages, stealing cattle and food, setting homes ablaze and kidnapping for ransom, prompting rural communities to take up arms to defend themselves.

Nigeria also suffers from attacks conducted by Boko Haram Takfiri terrorist group, which began its activities in northeastern Nigeria in 2009. It has spread them into the neighboring countries of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

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.

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