At least 43 people were killed by gunmen shooting sporadically in an attack at a weekly market in Sokoto’s Goronyo district, local authorities said.

Security forces patrol in Jangebe, Zamfara, Nigeria on March 3, 2021.
Security forces patrol in Jangebe, Zamfara, Nigeria on March 3, 2021. (Reuters Archive)

Gunmen from a suspected criminal gang attacked a village market in northwest Nigeria's Sokoto's state killing dozens of people, the state government said.

"Forty-three people have been confirmed dead following the attack by bandits in Goronyo village in Sokoto State," Sokoto government spokesman Muhammad Bello said in a statement on Monday.

Bello added that the attack occurred on Sunday evening in Goronyo district. "It was a market day and there were many traders," Bello said.

The assault began at a weekly market in Goronyo on Sunday and continued into Monday morning, Sokoto Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said in a statement.

Heavily armed gangs known locally as bandits have terrorised northwest and central Nigeria for years, raiding and looting villages, but attacks have become even more violent in recent months.

READ MORE: Armed bandits kill more than a dozen in northwest Nigeria

They were 'shooting sporadically'

Iliyasu Abba, a local resident and trader, said that there were 60 bodies at Goronyo General Hospital mortuary, while others sustained injuries while escaping.

"The gunmen stormed the market as it was crowded with shoppers and traders," he said.

The men were "shooting sporadically on us after they surrounded the market firing at every direction killing people."

Police spokesman Sanusi Abubakar also confirmed that bandits attacked Goronyo late on Sunday.

"Our security operatives are there to conduct investigations," Abubakar added, without giving details.

Phone networks in the area have been suspended for weeks to disrupt the gangs' operations, making information-gathering tricky.

A gang raided another village market on October 8, in Sabon Birni district near the border with Niger, killing 19 people.

READ MORE: Nigeria rescues nearly 200 people from kidnappers in Zamfara state

Thousands flee from their homes

Violence has spiralled in recent months across the northwest, forcing thousands of already vulnerable people to flee their homes in a situation that aid agencies fear risks becoming a humanitarian crisis.

Since January 2020, about 50,000 people fled from their homes in the northwest alone, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

And more than 80,000 additional people have fled to neighbouring Niger over the past two years.

Increasingly, bandits have turned to mass kidnapping and have kidnapped hundreds of schoolchildren since December. Most have been freed or released after ransom but dozens are still being held.

The violence is just one challenge facing Nigeria's security forces, who are also battling a 12-year insurgency in the northeast that has killed more than 40,000 people.

READ MORE: Nigerian gunmen release 10 kidnapped students after ransom payment

Source: TRTWorld and agencies