In Northern Nigeria, gunmen kill 53 villagers.

In Northern Nigeria, gunmen kill 53 villagers.

Scores of motorcycle-riding gunmen known as bandits by locals invaded the Zurmi district villages of Kadawa, Kwata, Maduba, Ganda Samu, Saulawa, and Askawa on Thursday and Friday, shooting residents, they said.

The gang assaulted farmers in their fields and pursued those who fled to avoid the attacks.

According to Mohammed Shehu, a Zamfara police spokesman, 14 bodies were taken to the state capital Gusau on Friday, and “policemen were deployed in the area following the attacks.”

Residents in the neighboring town of Dauran said 39 more bodies had been recovered and buried.

“We recovered 28 bodies from the villages yesterday and 11 more this morning and buried them here,” Dauran resident Haruna Abdulkarim explained.

“It was risky to hold the funeral there because the bandits are hiding in the Zurmi forest and could return to attack the funeral,” said Musa Arzika, another resident who reported the same death toll.

Bandits have repeatedly raided villages in the Zurmi district, and locals blocked a major highway last week to demand that the attacks stop.

In recent years, gangs of cattle thieves and kidnappers have raided villages, killing and kidnapping residents as well as stealing livestock after looting and burning homes.

Criminals have begun to concentrate their efforts on raiding schools and kidnapping students for ransom.

More than 850 students have been kidnapped since December, with the majority of them released after ransom payments.

The gangs are primarily motivated by financial gain and have no ideological leanings, but there is growing concern about their infiltration by jihadists from the northeast, who have been fighting a 12-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state.

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