Nearly 30 people have been killed across Nigeria's north in violent attacks in recent days targeting rural areas and the police, locals and authorities said Wednesday.
The three attacks in the northern states of Zamfara, Katsina and Taraba occurred over the past 48 hours. While the attacks were not related, armed groups have been terrorizing local communities across the northwest and central parts of Africa's most populous country.
Gunmen invaded two villages in the Karim Lamido local government area of Taraba state on Wednesday morning and opened fire on residents in what was said to be a reprisal after two herdsmen were allegedly killed.
"People on motorcycles numbering 40 invaded the village and started shooting all over. People started to take to their heels for their dear lives and the village was deserted," police spokesperson Usman Abdullahi told The Associated Press, adding local hunters have helped the police to restore peace in the area.
He said the number of casualties has not been ascertained. The Abuja-based Daily Trust newspaper reported 15 killed, quoting accounts from residents in the northcentral state.
In the northwest Zamfara state, seven police officers were killed on Monday when gunmen ambushed them while on patrol, according to a resident who witnessed the aftermath of the attack along Magami road about 35 kilometers (21 miles) from the state capital.
Idris Yusuf told The AP the gunmen opened fire on the police vehicle carrying the officers. "They killed seven before the police arrived to take their bodies to the hospital," he said.
Barely 24 hours after, assailants invaded the Katoge and Yanturaku quarters of Batsari local government area in the neighbouring Katsina late Tuesday and killed 11 people, police spokesperson Gambo Isa said.
Isa did not give details of the attacks other than that the gunmen were "shooting sporadically with AK 47 rifles." No arrest has been made but the police have deployed additional personnel in the area "to beef up security and restore confidence on the affected communities", he added.
Security experts have told the AP that the gunmen terrorising rural communities in the West African nation are former Fulani herdsmen caught up in Nigeria's prolonged conflict between farmers and nomadic cattle herders. They are blamed for the abduction of more than 1,400 schoolchildren in the last year and the killing of thousands in states across the country's north.
Authorities are struggling to contain the security challenge, with security forces still battling violent extremism by Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), in the northeast and Lake Chad region.
Ibrahim Katsina, a senior government official in Katsina state, told AP that the government is making efforts to "contain the threat."
However, the challenges have mainly been a "very inadequate" police presence and the "proliferation of ungoverned spaces" in violent hotspots, according to Oluwole Ojewale of the Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies.
"The police is ill-equipped to carry out that responsibility, particularly in the hotspots," he said. "The armed forces are continuously overstretched in this guerilla warfare with bandits, terrorists and kidnappers."