A group of gunmen on motorcycles entered the villages of Damri, Sabon Garin and Kalahe in coordinated attacks on Friday afternoon, shooting people as they tried to flee.
At least 48 people have been killed in attacks by gunmen on three villages in northwest Nigeria's Zamfara state.
Dozens of gunmen on motorcycles entered the three villages—Damri, Sabon Garin and Kalahe—in coordinated attacks, shooting people as they tried to flee, a local official said on Sunday.
The worst hit in Friday's attack was Damri where the gunmen killed 32 people, including patients at a hospital, said Aminu Suleiman, administrative head of Bakura district where the villages are.
"They burnt a police patrol vehicle, killing two security personnel," said Suleiman, adding that troops deployed in the area engaged the attackers in a gun battle, forcing them to withdraw.
Abubakar Maigoro, a Damri resident, said the gunmen went on a shooting spree before looting livestock and food supplies.
"We buried 48 people killed in the attacks," Maigoro said.
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Fear stalks region
Northwest and central Nigeria have been terrorised for years by criminal gangs known as bandits who raid and loot villages, steal cattle and carry out mass abductions of residents for ransom.
The criminals have recently stepped up their assaults despite military operations against their hideouts.
The so-called bandits maintain camps in a vast forest, straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states. In early January, gunmen killed more than 200 people in Zamfara state.
In the past two months, criminals have attacked a train between the capital Abuja and Kaduna city and kidnapped dozens of passengers, massacred more than 100 villagers and killed a dozen members of vigilante groups.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), bandits killed 2,600 civilians in 2021, an increase of 250 percent from 2020.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army commander, has been under intense pressure to end bandit violence before he leaves office next year at the end of his two terms in power.
The violence has forced thousands to flee to neighbouring Niger, with over 11,000 seeking refuge in November, according to the United Nations.
READ MORE: UN chief calls for safe and 'dignified' return for Nigeria's displaced