Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire outside a weekly market in northwest Nigeria, killing civilians and policemen, authorities say.

Northwest and central Nigeria are a hub of criminal gangs called bandits by locals who raid villages, kill and abduct residents after looting and burning homes.
Northwest and central Nigeria are a hub of criminal gangs called bandits by locals who raid villages, kill and abduct residents after looting and burning homes. (George Osodi / File / AP Archive)

Gunmen in northwest Nigeria have killed six people, including four policemen, in the latest violence to hit the region, police said.

Attackers arriving on motorcycles opened fire on Monday on a police patrol van outside the weekly market in Yar Bulutu, a village in Sokoto state near the border with Niger, said state police spokesman Sanusi Abubakar on Tuesday.

"We lost four policemen in the attack by bandits who also shot dead two civilians," he said. The two were traders who were shot as the assailants tried to flee.

"We have launched a manhunt for the attackers and we are sure they will be apprehended," he said.

Abubakar said the assault could be a reprisal for last week's killings of bandits by policemen in the nearby Silame district during a foiled attack on residents.

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Ongoing 'bandit' attacks

Northwest and central Nigeria are a hub of criminal gangs called bandits by locals who raid villages, kill and abduct residents after looting and burning homes.

The bandits, who have been officially declared terrorists, maintain camps in Rugu forest, straddling Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.

Communities in Sokoto's Sabon Birni come under periodic attacks by bandits who sneak in from their hideouts in neighbouring Zamfara state.

Analysts say the gangs who are driven by financial motives are increasingly forging alliances with militants from the northeast waging a 13-year-old insurrection.

READ MORE: Bandits raid Nigeria's Niger state, killing and abducting villagers

Source: AFP