Mohammed Aminu in Gusau and John Shiklam in Kaduna
Gruesome attacks continued unabated in the country with the slaughter of 69 persons by unidentified gunmen in separate incidents in Zamfara and Kaduna States within a space of 72 hours.
In the North-western state of Zamfara, at least 63 people were reportedly killed in two separate attacks launched by gunmen believed to be cattle rustlers in Bawar Daji village in Anka Local Government Area of the state between Tuesday and Wednesday while six persons were killed by yet-to-be identified gunmen in Bakin Kogi, Kaninkon chiefdom in Jamaâ€™a Local Government Area of Kaduna State thursday.
The violent attack in Kaduna took place less than 24 hours after Governor Nasir el-Rufai met with the heads of the Fulani community and urged them to embrace and foster peace in the state.
THISDAY gathered that the Zamfara incident occurred when members of a vigilante group from the affected village converged on Tuesday to hold a meeting with a view to ensuring a conducive environment for farming activities and keeping criminals at bay.
A resident of the village who survived the attack, told THISDAY on the condition of anonymity that a group of bandits invaded the area during the meeting and opened fire on the vigilantes, leaving 12 dead on the spot.
â€œThey first attacked the village on Tuesday afternoon, killing at least 12 people after getting information that the vigilante group was meeting to discuss how to confront them.
â€œMany people escaped with gunshots into the bush and to the neighbouring villages. Some of them later died,â€ the source said.
He said on Wednesday when they had gathered at the cemetery to bury those killed the day before they were attacked again by bandits who arrived on motorcycles.
â€œThe next day, it was terrible as the same bandits in large numbers on motorbikes surrounded us at the cemetery during the burial of our brothers and opened fire on us.
â€œIn fact, they killed almost everybody there with the exception of two other persons,â€ he said.
He revealed that the attack was a reprisal, as some of the bandits were killed by the vigilante group which had foiled an attempted attack by the criminals a few weeks ago.
The police public relations officer of the Zamfara State Command, DSP Shehu Muhammad, who confirmed the incident, said only three people were killed in the attack.
He disclosed that normalcy had returned to the village, adding that the Joint Task Force was able to force the bandits to flee inside the forest with possible gunshot wounds.
At the time of filing this report, the state Commissioner of Police, Kenneth Ebrimson and Governor Abdulaziz Yari were heading to the village for an on-the-spot assessment.
In Kaduna, six people were reportedly killed in separate attacks in Bakin Kogi, Kaninkon chiefdom in Jamaâ€™a Local Government Area.
The killings occurred barely one day after the state governor held a meeting with Fulani leaders on forging lasting peace in the state.
The two attacks were said to have carried out at about 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. yesterday by gunmen suspected to be herders of cattle.
A member of the security committee in the community, Auta Maurice, who confirmed the attacks on the phone, said the gunmen numbering about 10 were wearing army and mobile police uniforms.
Maurice said three people were killed in the bush when they went to cut wood to roof their houses while three others were killed at a local mining site on the hills around the area.
He said four people were injured and were taken to the hospital in Kafanchan.
According to him, â€œThe attacks occurred in the bush at different locations and at different times.
â€œThe first attack occurred at about 10 a.m. when some members of our community went to the bush to cut wood for roofing their houses.
â€œAll of a sudden, the herdsmen opened fire at them and three people were killed while others managed to escape.
â€œThe second attack happened at about 11 a.m. at a local mining site. Three people were also killed there, while four others were injured.â€
He added that the suspected herdsmen were dressed in army camouflage and mobile police uniforms.
Maurice said the distances between the village and the places where the attacks took place are between 5 and 6 kilometres, but by the time the soldiers deployed to the community got to the locations the bandits had disappeared.
â€œWe reported the case to the soldiers maintaining security in our community and we went to the bush with them to hunt them down, but the bandits had fled,â€ he said.
However, the police could not confirm the attacks, as Aliyu Mukhtar, spokesman of the Kaduna State Police Command did not respond to phone calls and a text message sent to him on the matter.