Kasimu Bello, resident of Magami village in the Maradun district, told AFP news agency on Monday that unidentified gunmen entered his village on several motorcycles on Saturday, shooting people indiscriminately as they tried to flee.
“After the attack, we collected 17… bodies, which we buried,” he said.
Another resident, Umaru Bawa, confirmed the attack, saying: “The bandits pursued people like chickens and shot them dead as they ran into the bush”.
Mohammed Shehu, state police spokesman, said his operatives would arrest and “bring to justice the perpetrators of this dastardly act”.
The assault came just days after 25 people were killed on Wednesday 19 December in similar raids on two villages in Birnin Magaji district.
Following what they described as the incessant attacks on villages by bandits in Zamfara State, some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Tsafe town in Tsafe Local Government Monday 24 December went on the rampage, setting the council secretariat ablaze, burned 19 vehicles, including three vehicles belonging to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The IDPs, who blocked all the entrances to the town, called on the authorities to do the needful in containing the criminal activities of bandits in the state particularly the unabated killings of innocent citizens.
The protesters carried various placards calling for an end to banditry in the state.
Travellers along Tsafe road, which is the major road linking Zamfara with Zaria, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and Kebbi were prevented from making use of the road by the protesters.
Despite the heavy presence of policemen and other security agents patrolling the town, the protesters, as at the time of filing this report, continued with their protests.
Speaking with newsmen, the council chairman, Alhaji Aliyu, who visited the town after the incident, said security personnel were on top of the situation in Tsafe town.
According to him, the protesters destroyed properties and set some government, private vehicles and the local government secretariat ablaze.
The Police has confirmed the burning of 15 vehicles as a result of Monday’s protest but it described the protester as miscreants and not IDP’s
The State Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel said at a press conference in Gusau the incident as unfortunate and the incidents were perpetrated by bent on creating unrest in the society.
“What happened today in Tsafe was really uncalled for, people didn’t deserved that. “We received a message in the early hours of today that members of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) were trying to stage peaceful protest to complain about their plight to the government on security issues. Our investigation revealed that, large number of miscreants were sighted at the gate of the IDP camp in Tsafe instigating women and children to partake in the protest.
“Therefore what happened today in Tsafe is not an IDPs demonstration, it is an act of criminals who have no regards to lives and properties”, he said.
‘This violence must stop’
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari condemned the latest attacks in a statement, saying “these horrendous acts of violence are crimes against humanity”.
“This violence must stop,” he said. “To this end, a major operation by the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, Department of State Services and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, is being considered to restore peace and stability in the region.”
Farming and herding communities in Zamfara have for years been wracked by cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom, prompting villagers to form vigilante gangs as a protection force.
However, the villagers too are accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings, leading to tit-for-tat violence.
In April, troops were deployed to Zamfara to fight the gangs and police banned the civilian militia in an attempt to curb the cycle of reprisals.
Last month, the police claimed to have killed 104 outlaws in Birnin Magaji district, in a clash in which 16 policemen were killed.
Early this month, an influential traditional ruler in the State called for civilian militia members to be given assault rifles to defend themselves.
The continued raids by cattle thieves in Zamfara and the resource conflict between farmers and herders in central Nigeria have added to Nigeria’s security challenges as the military battles the Boko Haram armed group in the northeast.
Late on Friday, troops fought off the group’s attempt to overrun a base in Damasak on the border with Niger after an hours-long fight in which one civilian was killed.
On Saturday, troops foiled attempts to seize two bases in Logomani near the border with Cameroon and the town of Gajiram.
Several Boko Haram fighters were killed and their vehicles destroyed, sources said on condition of anonymity.