An armed group killed 88 people in eight towns in northwest Nigeria, according to a report released by police on Saturday (5). Instability prompted the governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, to announce a strengthening of the security detachment at the site and to pledge financial assistance.
A spokesman for the governor said on Sunday (6) that dozens of men on motorcycles had come from neighboring states to steal livestock and crops, causing local residents to flee. The episode took place on Thursday (3), but information on the deaths began to air on Saturday.
Kebbi State Police spokesperson Nafiu Abubakar said 66 bodies were initially discovered and later the rest – but an investigation is still underway to determine the extent of the destruction and to search for more bodies.
The number of attacks by armed groups has increased in the region in recent years, forcing thousands to flee across Nigeria’s northern border. Armed groups operate in northwest and central Nigeria, stealing livestock, property and also kidnapping villagers for ransom.
Last week, 136 children were abducted from an Islamic school in central Nigeria by a group of armed men. Authorities say they are negotiating for the students’ release. The episode brought the total number of students abducted in the country to 700 in the past six months.
According to the AFP news agency, the armed gangs do not operate for political reasons, but the authorities fear that they will be infiltrated by jihadist fighters.
Operating in northeast Nigeria since 2009, Boko Haram, whose name in the local Hausa language means “Western education is prohibited”, has a habit of turning captives into jihadist fighters. Last year, the group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of more than 300 students in northwestern Katsina state.
This Saturday (5) Nigeria was the target of international attention after indefinitely suspending Twitter operations in the country – which happened two days after the platform deleted a post from President Muhammadu Buhari, in which he threatened to punish the separatists.
The act has been criticized by human rights defenders and diplomats and reported as an obstacle to freedom of expression in the country.