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Armed bandits kill at least 16 villagers in northwest Nigeria

File photo of Nigerian soldiers patrolling the north of Borno state near a former Boko Haram terrorist camp. (AFP)

At least 16 people have been killed in an attack by unknown gunmen in volatile northwest Nigeria, in the latest raid by the militants in the region.

Dozens of bandits from gangs of cattle thieves invaded Ganar-Kiyawa village in Bukkuyum district, shooting dead 16 residents, according to Mohammed Shehu, the Zamfara state police spokesman.

According to Shehu, "the terrorists killed 16 people in the attack and fled before the deployment of police personnel."

"The police and the military are in the area to forestall further attacks and pursue the bandits."

Shehu said security agencies are currently conducting an extensive bush combing of the affected community.

A statement from the Zamfara state governor's office confirming the attack, said, "Many lives were reportedly lost and many others got injured".

Local media put the death toll as high as 37, including the village chief, with dozens kidnapped from the village which has been repeatedly targeted by the bandits.

On Sunday, Ibrahim Dosara, Zamfara State information commissioner said bandit attacks in the state have displaced more than 700,000, prompting the state government to open eight camps.

The armed gangs have spread a reign of terror across the volatile northwest over the years, carrying out kidnappings of hundreds of school children and villagers.

Northwestern states of Nigeria have long been battered by violence, including clashes over land between rival communities, attacks by heavily-armed criminal gangs, and reprisal killings by vigilante groups.

Gangs of thieves and kidnappers have long been terrorizing communities in the region, where they raid schools, mosques, and markets, besides killing and burning buildings after looting them.

The gangs have been infiltrated by the Takfiri terrorist group of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups.

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