Nigerian authorities on Sunday said the death toll from attacks by armed groups in northwest Zamfara State last week has risen to more than 200.
The attacks which began Tuesday lasted until Thursday across nine villages. Authorities say many more villagers remain unaccounted for. Zamfara state residents say the attacks were retaliation for an earlier military raid against the bandits.
Military airstrikes last Monday around the armed men’s hideout in the Gusami forest hideout as well as in Tamre village in Zamfara reportedly killed more than 100 bandits, including two of their leaders.
Large numbers of angry motorcycle-riding bandits hit back at local communities in reprisal for days, shooting people on sight and burning down houses.
State authorities initially said 58 people were killed but authorities on Saturday said more than 200 bodies were buried and scores of other people were missing.
Last week's attacks are among the deadliest seen in the region in years. Authorities say up to 10,000 people were displaced and too afraid to return to their homes.
On Saturday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement, “The latest attacks on innocent people by the bandits is an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from our military forces.”
Security analyst Kabiru Adamu said security forces have been making progress and gives a reason.
"One of the key bandits by the name Bello Turji, wrote a letter last month where he indicated his willingness to [as it were] end what he's doing. The letter was very clear," said Adamu.
Zamfara state police spokesperson Shehu Mohammed said authorities were gathering intelligence on the attacks from the villages and victims and would aid future operations.
"The information we got will surely assist the security agencies in trying to record more successes in subsequent operations," he said.
Northwest and north-central Nigeria are recording spikes in attacks on communities, looting and mass kidnappings for ransom that began in late 2020. The government has repeatedly promised to address the issue.