Nigerian News Update:
The death toll from separate attacks this week by heavily armed gunmen on two towns in northwest Nigeria has risen to 43, the local state government said.
Criminal gangs known locally as bandits have plagued northwest and central Nigeria for years, raiding and looting villages, but attacks have intensified in recent months along with a spate of mass kidnappings.
Dozens of gunmen stormed into Sokoto’s Illela and Goronyo towns early Monday, with the initial reports saying 15 residents had been killed.
Sokoto State Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal’s office said in statement late Wednesday that toll had risen to 43.
“This is not a small occurrence. It is upsetting,” the governor said on a visit to Illela, according to the statement. “This incident really touched us.”
Since September, Nigerian troops have been carrying out offensives on bandit camps in neighbouring Zamfara state.
To disrupt communication between gang members, telecom services were shut down in Zamfara and parts of Kaduna, Katsina and Sokoto states.
Bandits escaping military operations in Zamfara have set up camps near the border with Niger, including in Sokoto, from where they launch attacks on local villages and towns.
Last month bandits opened fire on a market in Goronyo, killing 43 traders.
Nigerian security forces are also battling a 12-year-old jihadist insurgency in the northeast of the country.
Bandit gangs have increasingly turned to mass school kidnappings for ransom, snatching 1,400 children this year according to UNICEF.
Most have been released after negotiations with their captors, but the UN agency warned in September that more than 200 children were still missing.